This was an embarrassing effort by a team that is supposedly "fighting" for a playoff spot. There is simply no other way to put it. The Bulls just decided not to show up for the second straight night and they paid for it.
Once again, the Bulls made the Knicks look like legitimate title contenders in a 106-94 loss in Madison Square Garden. The loss put the Bulls 1.5 games back of the Pistons in the race for the eighth seed. But it looks like Chicago has given up already.
The Bulls showed no effort on defense for the entire game and tried to rely on its offense to carry them. It started off pretty well as Chicago shot around 56% from the field in the first quarter. The problem was that the Knicks were doing the exact same thing on the other end of the court. Then Chicago stopped shooting well and it all went downhill, and when they needed stops the most, they couldn't get it.
It was a combination of Carmelo Anthony and solid three-point shooting which led New York to victory. Anthony is at his best when he is backing down a defender near the post. This allows him an array of options which he can exploit. He can either face-up the defender and shoot over him, or he can use his quick first step to take it past the defender to the rim. Anthony scored 26 points on 9 of 17 shooting (52.9%), and did it with relative ease.
The Bulls went with a defense combination of Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler to try and stop Anthony. Butler was the primary defender, with Dunleavy guarding Anthony when Butler had to guard Aaron Afflalo. Usually Dunleavy or Butler would have been able to guard Melo by themselves and make him work on the offensive end, but not in this game. And since Butler and Dunleavy couldn't contain Melo, Chicago had to try and double Anthony whenever he touched the ball in the post. With the second player coming down into the post to double and help out, it left the likes of Jose Calderon and Kristaps Porzingis open near the three point line. Melo simply made the easy play by kicking the ball out. The Knicks hit 13 three-pointers and took advantage of Chicago failing to rotate guys over to contest. One pass and an open three, it was like clockwork.
It was pick your poison for Fred Hoiberg. Leave Melo one-on-one and let him pull up and score, or double him and allow an open three because your guys don't know how to rotate over on defense. Chicago could have at least tried to force the Knicks to make more than one pass coming off doubling Melo. It's not like the Knicks are one of the best shooting teams in the NBA. Outside of Melo and Kristaps Porzingis, there are really no other shooters. In fact, New York is one of the worst teams shooting the three at 34.4%, good for 21st in the NBA. But they looked completely different against the Bulls.
Bulls. Bad. So bad. So, so so so bd, Bulls.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 25, 2016
The Bulls did do something right on defense and that was take away the air space of Porzingis when he had the ball around the three-point line. Taj Gibson did a good job of doing that but anytime you allow a team to shoot open jumpers, you're going to lose. Chicago's failure to simply rotate over on defense off a double team really hurt them against the Knicks.
Two other takeaways
2. Bad three-point shooting
Saying Chicago had a rough night shooting it from deep is putting it lightly. They were horrible. The Bulls shot 24.3% from three as they only hit six of 25 attempts. For an offensive system like Fred Hoiberg's, Chicago needs to shoot well from the beyond the arc to be successful. When that doesn't occur and with the defense the way it is, bad things happen. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, Chicago's two best shooters, were nowhere to been seen, going a combined 0-5 from deep.
3. Derrick Rose
The only bright spot for the Bulls was the play of Derrick Rose. The point guard scored 30 points tonight and looked like the only Bull who cared in this game. He played really well in this game and was the only source of offense for Chicago. Rose again was able to use his quickness to come off screens to either drive to the basket or pull up for the mid-range jumper.
He also dunked for the first time in what seemed like forever so that's at least something positive to take away from this game.