It felt like the Bulls controlled most of Monday night’s game against Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks, but New York kept hanging around and even held a one-point lead with just under three minutes to play. After Alec Burks hit a tough 3-pointer to tie the game at 100-100 with 56.1 seconds remaining, it was only natural to expect the worst.
Instead, the Bulls executed down the stretch, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to pull away. First it was Coby White from the corner after some excellent ball movement. Thaddeus Young in the middle of the court often means good things these days:
Then after an ugly Julius Randle turnover, the Knicks somehow lost Zach LaVine at the top of the key. The Bulls star calmly knocked down the dagger:
There would be no epic collapse in this one, with RJ Barrett tossing up another bricked Knicks 3-pointer (they shot 6-of-29 from deep) to seal it. The Bulls ultimately took home a 110-102 victory to end a three-game losing streak and move to 8-11 on the season.
LaVine’s dagger capped off a strong fourth quarter after he was mostly quietly through three frames. He poured in 10 points in the fourth to finish with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting overall and 3-of-6 from 3. It speaks to his incredible shotmaking this season that a blah game from him still saw him shoot 50%.
Lauri Markkanen led the Bulls with 30 points, his second straight game hitting 30 points. 23 of those points came in the first half as part of a torrid shooting start, as the Bulls (especially Thad Young) were finding him open all over the court. The big man shot 8-of-11 from the field and 5-of-7 from deep in the opening half.
Markkanen promptly knocked down a wide-open triple to start the second half (this had to drive Thibs crazy) and hit the 30-point mark midway through the third quarter, so it seemed like he could be in line for a 40-point night. Sadly, he didn’t score the rest of the game, missing a few good looks from deep but also just not getting nearly as many quality touches as he did in the first half.
Still, it’s hard to complain too much about an efficient 30-point game in which Markkanen was a team-best plus-16, even if he was mostly invisible down the stretch. He at least competed defensively and got the late steal on Randle, who was out of control on his drive. Randle had 18 first-half points, but he was quiet in the second half and finished with 23.
Now it’s time for the daily Thad Young lovefest. Billy Donovan inserted Young in for Daniel Gafford just three-plus minutes into the game after a sluggish start for the both teams. Billy D even called a timeout just 50 seconds into the game thanks to two awful Bulls turnovers. (They only finished with 12, though White tried to commit more than the four really bad ones he had.) Sure enough, Young helped get the Bulls going offensively with his playmaking, finding cutters and shooters and keeping it going pretty much all game:
Thad Young's passing has been so good that he's even giving the announcers assists. pic.twitter.com/w1HlRYurgG— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) February 2, 2021
For the third straight contest, Young nearly notched a triple-double, this time recording 13 points (6-of-10 shooting), eight rebounds and eight assists. In addition to his passing, his little flip shot in the paint continues to be close to automatic, and he made a clutch one after the Knicks took that one-point lead with under three minutes left.
While Gafford got the early yank in favor of Young, I must commend the young center for battling later on after the rough stretch of games he had. Gafford was especially big to start the fourth quarter as the bench units duked it out, and he also had a crucial putback with just over three minutes to play before Young replaced him to finish the game. Gafford finished with 12 points, nine rebounds (five offensive) and a handful of angry dunks.
The Bulls really did play well throughout much of this game, and there were several points where it looked like they were going to run away with it (they led by 11 points on two different occasions). The Bulls shot over 52% and had 26 assists through three quarters (they finished with 30 assists), with the bench again leading the way in the playmaking department (17 assists).
But Thibs’ squad battled on the SEGABABA despite their putrid shooting, making up for it with 22 made free throws through three quarters and solid play off the bench from Burks and rookie Immanuel Quickley. (I now really get why Knicks fans love IQ and hate Elfrid Payton.) The Knicks didn’t attempt a single free throw in the fourth quarter, though, and their offense wasn’t good enough to take advantage of the Bulls’ own cold streak in the final frame. Chicago then got hot just in time to get the win.
These two teams will play again on Wednesday.