As the season winds down and given where they are in the standings, the Chicago Bulls cannot drop games they are expected to win. But in the second game of their road trip, they gave up an early lead and played catch up against the New York Knicks for all of the second half. Then, despite clawing their way back into the game, they couldn’t make the plays in crunch time in what was ultimately a 109-103 loss.
The Bulls started out of the gates hot, going up by double digits in the first quarter. However, in the second they gave up a huge run and allowed the Knicks to take the lead halfway through the second. The Knicks went on a 9-0 run to start the third and still led by double digits early in the fourth, but when it got to crunch time it was a 101-100 game with less than three minutes to go.
In those final minutes, the Bulls kept battling to take the lead, but each time the Knicks either responded or Chicago couldn’t execute on the offensive end. After a missed shot by DeMar DeRozan with 46.7, the Bulls absolutely needed a stop with a three-pointer being the most disastrous outcome. After Immanuel Quickley drove into the lane, he dished it out to Alec Burks in the corner. As he had all game, Burks knocked down the three which turned out to be the dagger.
Soon after, DeRozan ran into Burks for an offensive foul (which was upheld after a coaching challenge), and that was it for Chicago.
The Bulls shot 43 percent from the field and again were ice cold from the three-point line. Four different Bulls hit shots from downtown but as a unit, Chicago shot a woeful 23 percent from three. They also only had 16 assists on 34 made baskets, and doesn’t look like the same type of offense which led them to success earlier in the season. They also committed 14 turnovers, which led to 16 points for the Knicks.
The offensive output was mostly from the free throw line, as they hit 30 of their 33 attempts from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, the Knicks missed 14 of their 35 attempts including the gift of some late misses, but the Bulls did not take advantage.
DeMar DeRozan led the way with 37 points, going 12 of 26 from the field and hitting all 12 of his free throw attempts. He also added seven assists and six rebounds. DDR was a bit quiet in the first half, but per usual he picked things up in a hurry in the fourth quarter and it looked like he’d steal another win until the final minutes. Zach LaVine started off the game hot, scoring the first seven points and finished with 27 points. He went eight of 17 from the field along with three assists and four rebounds.
Nikola Vucevic notched another double double of 16 points and 13 rebounds but struggled to box out Mitchell Robinson, who had eight rebounds against Chicago’s front line.
And a larger problem was getting next to nothing from the rest of the team. Alex Caruso got the start, notching just three points along with five rebounds and two assists. He picked up his sixth foul late in the game and it really hurt the Bulls defense down the stretch. Ayo Dosunmu scored 10 points on 50 percent shooting from the field along with three assists and two rebounds.
The four bench players used by Chicago got outscored by the Knicks reserves 28-11. Coby White continued his cold shooting streak with a two of nine performance and missed all five of his attempts - mostly wide open - from deep. Given they are near the bottom of the league in three point attempts, they need someone to not only take those shots but make them as well. Patrick Williams played the least out of any Bulls player with 13 minutes, and the only thing more spare than his minutes was his output: zero points, a turnover, and two rebounds. Plus, Williams again struggled on defense.
Every defensive possession from Patrick Williams' second half.— Mark K (@mkhoops) March 29, 2022
With so few games to go, and so much time lost this season, defense is primary value at this point.
He was *ok*, but a lot of unnecessary switching which took him off Barrett. pic.twitter.com/R5I7vWqKWc
This was a game Chicago couldn’t afford to lose given how tight the playoff race is. With Toronto and Cleveland winning on Monday, the Bulls are now tied with the Raptors for the 5th seed, and a game ahead of the Cavs for 7th.
They are still ahead given they have the tiebreaker but they can’t continue this slide. They have to grab more wins down the stretch. The chances of dropping into the play-in get larger and larger with each defeat. Chicago has little chance to recover as they play the Wizards on the second night of a back to back on Tuesday night.