After an ugly home opener against the Raptors, at several points it looked like the Bulls were going to cruise to an easy victory over a winless Knicks teams at Madison Square Garden. Instead, the Bulls completely shat the bed in the final few minutes, allowing a 15-0 run in the final 3:33 to lose 105-98 to fall to 1-3 on the young season.
Fittingly, it was Bobby Portis who got his revenge in this one, going for a game-high 28 points off the bench on 10-of-14 shooting overall and 4-of-4 on 3-pointers. He also grabbed 11 rebounds, registered a plus-31 and had MSG chanting his name.
Portis was woofing at the Bulls’ bench right from the outset, and he got the last laugh as he put the Knicks up for good with a triple with just under two minutes to play. He then hit another one on the next possession after Zach LaVine badly missed a jumper. Both triples were off passes from Julius Randle, who finished strong after an ugly start to his night.
Meanwhile, the Bulls totally melted down late after it looked like they were going to avoid a total collapse. After blowing an 18-point third-quarter lead, LaVine and Lauri Markkanen hit back-to-back triples to put the Bulls ahead 98-90 heading into that fateful 3:33 to finish the game. Those final minutes were a mess of terrible shot selection, poor defense, poor decision-making, you name it. Simply put, it was a clusterfuck.
After it was all said and done, the Bulls managed just 42.4% shooting overall and 9-of-35 on 3-pointers as they continue to fail from distance. But the most notable statistic on the evening was the Knicks’ total dominance on the glass. New York won the rebounding battle 63-38, grabbing 25 offensive rebounds in the process and scoring 26 second-chance points:
The Bulls were outrebouned by 25 (63-38), their worst rebounding night since March 1, 2010 against Atlanta (-26 - 63-37).— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) October 29, 2019
Randle led the way with seven offensive rebounds, while rookie RJ Barrett (he was really impressive overall in this game) and Mitchell Robinson both had six apiece. Portis added four more. Some of these offensive rebounds were a function of the Knicks just missing a ton of shots throughout the game, but the Bulls missed plenty of shots too and only grabbed eight offensive rebounds. The Knicks were simply relentless going after their misses, and the Bulls didn’t do enough to finish off possessions.
Markkanen is a culprit here, grabbing only six defensive rebounds and zero offensive boards. Markkanen has shown potential at times to be a strong rebounder, but he has to grab more in a game like this. He also really struggled defensively against the aggressiveness and strength of the Knicks in the paint, and he wasn’t anything special offensively either, finishing with 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
LaVine led the Bulls with 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting, but he again took some questionable shots down the stretch, including a 30-foot 3-point attempt relatively early in the shot clock right before Portis gave the Knicks the lead.
Basically everybody else stunk outside of Wendell Carter Jr. and Thaddeus Young. Carter had 20 points, 10 rebounds (probably should have had more), three blocks and two assists, and he was the best player on the court in the first half. He was a menace defensively against a Knicks starting lineup that lacked spacing, protecting the rim and showing a lot more aggressiveness.
Young had 15 points and four rebounds (he could have done more here as well) off the bench. He almost single-handedly staved off one Knicks run in the third quarter as the game was starting to get tight.
Elsewhere, the Bulls really need to get more out of Otto Porter Jr. and Tomas Satoransky if they’re going to be successful. Porter started strong but then faded, while Sato continues to be too passive offensively. Sato and Kris Dunn combined to shoot 2-of-11 from the field while boasting some hideous misses at the rim.
Coby White only had five points in 16 minutes, and the Bulls’ three-guard look off the bench is really ugly offensively when he’s not rolling. Ryan Arcidiacono saved them at one point in the fourth quarter with a miracle 3-pointer, but those lineups just aren’t pretty. The extended stretches without LaVine/Markkanen/Porter probably need to stop happening.
This definitely goes down as a worse loss than the Hornets one, and the Bulls being 1-3 with this soft start to the schedule is not what was expected. The Bulls will shoot and play better at some point, but there are major warning signs regarding this team right now. They need to regroup and come out with a better performance against the Cavs on Wednesday.