The Bulls (26-36) traveled to Madison Square Garden to take on the Knicks (35-28) having won two of their last three games, as they attempt to catch Washington for the final spot in the NBA play-in tournament. Meanwhile, New York entered tonight with a 9-1 record in their past ten contests and found themselves tied with Atlanta for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
On April 8th, the Bulls were on a three-game winning streak following a six-game skid and sat in tenth place, three games ahead of Toronto. Since then, they are 4-8 and have gone 4-4 without Zach LaVine, who sat out again tonight due to NBA health and safety protocols.
Julius Randle (34/7/3) and RJ Barrett (22/7/6) led the way for the Knicks while Nikola Vucevic (26/18/3) was Chicago's top performer. As they have all year, the Bulls failed to take care of the ball, turning it over 14 times. They were also outpaced 17-10 in second-chance points and shot only 60% from the free-throw line.
For most of the night, the Bulls played New York tough, but a disastrous fourth quarter that saw their bench was outscored 20-3, ultimately led to their demise. With the loss, the Bulls are now 2-4 in their last six games against the Knicks.
Up-and-Down First Half
The Knicks came out in the first quarter with an abundance of defensive energy, which is typical for teams coached by former Bulls' bench boss Tom Thibodeau. The Bulls went 0-8 from long range and, at one point, New York forced the visitors into seven consecutive misses from the field. Meanwhile, Randle could do no wrong, finishing the quarter with 14 points and sparking a 27-13 run for the Knicks which resulted in a 13-point advantage.
The Bulls upped their defense effort and began the second quarter on a 13-4 run, cutting the deficit to only four points. However, the Knicks responded with an 11-2 run to regain a double-digit advantage. Chicago desperately needed a spark which came in the form of Vucevic, who finished the half with 16 points -- ten of which came in the second frame. Coby White and Garrett Temple provided seven points apiece as the Bulls won the quarter by nine and went into the locker room down 52-48.
Knicks Take Control Late
Vucevic continued his strong play with eight points, securing his 41st double-double of the season as the Bulls took their first lead of the night with seven minutes to go in the third quarter. But then, unfortunately for the visitors, the refs had one of the worst stretches you're ever going to see from a professional officiating crew. In the span of four plays, they incorrectly ruled that the ball went off Vucevic when Randle clearly knocked it out, followed by Theis and White getting hit across the face on drives to the basket without a call.
To their credit, the Bulls battled through adversity and went into the final frame only down one, thanks to a 12-6 run to end the third quarter. But the Knicks pushed back, simply imposing their will on Chicago and winning the fourth quarter by 20. Despite a spirited effort, the Bulls would go on to lose by a final of 113-94.
What's On Tap Next?
The Bulls (26-36) welcome the Milwaukee Bucks (38-23) to the United Center on Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 PM CT on NBC Sports Chicago Plus and WBBM 780 AM. As always, check out the latest Bulls content, articles, podcasts, and more at Bulls On Tap.