The Bulls and Knicks have played three close games this season, but Wednesday night’s double-overtime thriller at Madison Square Garden was by far the craziest of them all. I’m not sure you can say it was the most well-played game, with some truly wild and silly stuff happening down the stretch and into the overtimes, but the Bulls came away with a 122-119 victory behind a career-high 33 points from Lauri Markkanen.
Markkanen also hit a career-high eight 3-pointers, joining Dirk Nowitzki as the only 7-footers to pull that feat off, per ESPN Stats & Info. But Markkanen’s most impressive bucket wasn’t a 3-pointer, it was a poster dunk of Enes Kanter:
WELCOME TO THE LAURI SHOW pic.twitter.com/B8oCyh678u— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 11, 2018
Markkanen did slow down late in the game, as he only had six points on 1-of-9 shooting in the fourth quarter and both overtimes. But he played stellar defense on Kristaps Porzingis all night long (24 points on 11-of-24 shooting, but six of his last 17), and it was Lauri’s red-hot shooting throughout the first three quarters that almost single-handedly kept the Bulls in the game.
Markkanen and Porzingis went at it from the opening tip. While Markkanen was cashing triples, Porzingis was hitting tough fadeaways in the post. This theme continued through much of the rest of the game, though Markkanen kept hitting his shots and Porzingis went cold over the next few quarters. It was noticeable throughout the night that Markkanen was getting much better looks than Porzingis, who has had an issue with shot selection during his recent slump. Not having a dynamic point guard really hurts him (though Jarrett Jack somehow had a triple-double tonight), and he often forces up tough shots from mid-range. The offensive scheme doesn’t help, either.
Meanwhile, the Bulls do a nice job freeing up Markkanen from behind the arc, and his work from deep helped them reel the Knicks back in multiple times when it looked like things were going south. The Bulls fell behind by 11 points in the second quarter (the first second-unit stint was awful with the sick Nikola Mirotic not playing) and looked to be on the verge of falling behind by double digits in the third quarter as well, only for their 3-point shooting (15 of 33 for the game) to get them right back in it.
Denzel Valentine was key in this regard as well. Valentine had a career-high 20 points and hit four 3-pointers, with most of them coming on pull-ups in transition. Those aren’t always the best shots, but on this night Valentine was cashing them (as well as some nice floaters) and helping the Bulls stay afloat.
The Bulls trailed by six early in the fourth quarter when they really turned things on and appeared to take control of the game. David Nwaba (he torched Doug McDermott several times) and even Cristiano Felicio provided nice energy off the bench, and that six-point deficit turned into a six-point lead midway through the frame.
The Knicks weren’t done, though, thanks to Michael Beasley, who carried them down the stretch as part of a 26-point, 12-rebound night. The Bulls had several chances to win in the final minute, but Kris Dunn missed badly on two mid-range Js and Porzingis also swatted Markkanen on a transition layup attempt after Nwaba packed Beasley on the other end. The Knicks had one last chance to win it with 0.4 seconds left, but they couldn’t get a shot off.
The Knicks opened the overtime scoring with a 3-pointer from Porzingis and then had a chance to extend the lead, but KP missed a 3 and Lauri answered with a 3 of his own. The period was pretty helter-skelter and also featured Jack throwing the ball off the back of a defender on an inbounds pass back to himself for a layup, and a Robin Lopez tip-in that gave the Bulls a two-point lead with 39 seconds left. After another Dunn missed jumper, the Knicks tied it up at the buzzer on this beautiful play:
Porzingis dunk looks to be going to 2nd OT pic.twitter.com/ak5M0yfIEv— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) January 11, 2018
The second overtime featured a whole lot of Lopez to start. He had two straight dunks as part of a 20-point night to give the Bulls a four-point advantage, but the Knicks clawed their way back to tie it again. And who wound up hitting the game-winning shot? Dunn on a prayer runner in the lane with the time running out on the shot clock:
After a strong start on both ends, Dunn was horrendous offensively for the rest of the night until his final make. He shot 4 of 18 and made a bunch of questionable decisions, including a lot of bad isolations down the stretch. We’ve seen Dunn have success at this before, but in this game he didn’t have it before finally getting that last runner to fall. Better to be lucky than good sometimes.
The game wasn’t quite over yet thanks to a Porzingis 3-pointer, but the Bulls made all four of their late free throws and then secured the win when Jack missed a desperation 3 in the final seconds. Jack also had an awful turnover in transition down two points after one last gaffe by Dunn.
You could argue it would’ve been better for the #tank for the Bulls to wind up losing this wild and crazy game, but it’s always fun to beat the Knicks and it’s nice for Lauri to get the W in a career-high scoring game.
The Bulls have a few days off before hosting the Pistons on Saturday in Zach LaVine’s debut. Hopefully this means the end of Paul Zipser. Please.