The Bulls found themselves in some trouble against the Knicks on Tuesday night at the United Center. After choking away a game in epic fashion at Madison Square Garden earlier this season, the Bulls had blown a double-digit lead again and trailed by two points early in the final frame.
Then Coby White happened.
White buried a tough 3-pointer to give the Bulls the lead back and then just didn’t stop, raining hellfire down on the Knicks as the Bulls went on a 22-0 run to take control. When the damage was done, White hit a franchise-record SEVEN 3-pointers in the quarter to lead the Bulls to a 120-102 victory as the UC crowd chanted his name with UNC coach Roy Williams in the building.
The last 3-pointer was truly absurd:
White scored 23 of his 27 points in that fourth quarter after missing his first five shots of the game. White outscored the Knicks by six in the fourth quarter and had more points in that quarter than the Knicks’ awful bench (Dennis Smith Jr. played some of the worst minutes you’ll ever see in his return to the lineup) had in the entire game (22). Bobby Portis was a game-worst minus-23 and shot just 3-of-9 from the field. He did pick up a technical for woofing at the Wendell Carter Jr. after Carter said the Bulls weren’t going to allow another big game to him.
While White (game-high plus-27) is going to get all the headlines after breaking out of his ugly slump, the rest of the Bulls’ bench deserves props as well. Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono were both terrific as the three-guard lineup did well in this one, with Dunn going for 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting to go along with five rebounds, three steals and two assists in 19 minutes (plus-15) before fouling out. Arch had five points, eight assists, two steals and countless hustle plays (plus-23).
Thaddeus Young didn’t shoot well, but he added eight points and seven boards (four offensive) while doing plenty of dirty work in 30 minutes (plus-16). With Luke Kornet out of the rotation, Carter got plenty of time with the bench, going for 17 points and 12 rebounds while doing stellar work manning the middle in a team-high 35 minutes (plus-17).
The Bulls forced 18 more turnovers in this game, which has been a theme this season:
This is 1st time since 2007 that Bulls' defense has forced 15 or more TOs in first 11 games of season.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) November 13, 2019
Unfortunately, the reason the Bulls were losing in the fourth quarter was their own sloppiness taking care of the ball. They coughed it up 20 times, leading to 26 Knicks points. The Bulls went up by 12 points in the first half and 10 points in the second half, but their carelessness helped the Knicks get back in it on both occasions.
Lauri Markkanen was the biggest culprit with six giveaways. While he had moments of good aggression in this one (including one ambitious dunk attempt), he got stripped time and time again when he put the ball on the floor, resulting in fast-break opportunities the other way. He finished with 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting overall and 1-of-5 from 3-land, so another subpar showing as he battles through an apparent oblique injury.
Zach LaVine put up a nice stat line of 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting plus five assists, though he turned it over three times himself and had his usual questionable decisions. The Bulls were actually outscored by four points in his 31 minutes as the starting group didn’t play all that well together (no Otto Porter Jr. again). LaVine rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter, but he says he’s okay:
Zach LaVine on his rolled ankle: "It hurt. But if I'm unable to play, you guys would know it. It obviously wasn't that bad. I already iced it. It's a turned ankle. I can play through it."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) November 13, 2019
Overall, the Bulls actually shot it over 50% for the game and 14-of-33 from 3-point range. They even outrebounded the Knicks (46-38) after getting pounded on the glass at MSG. Winning by 18 points is great, no matter how crappy the opponent.
Still, there are issues bubbling below the surface of this victory. Thursday night’s game in Milwaukee against the Bucks will be a great test to see if the Bulls can follow up this win with a strong performance. It would be especially nice to see White play well again, because he hasn’t been able to maintain any kind of consistency this season. That’s to be expected from a rookie point guard, but I’d like to see more of a middle ground as opposed to these violent swings from one extreme to the other.