Take a deep breath Bulls fans. After leading by as many as 21 points, the Bulls hung on to defeat the Knicks in a 119-115 thriller on Thursday night.
Chicago dominated the first half, scoring a season-high 69 points on 57% shooting from the field. The Knicks stormed out of the gates in the second half, however, pulling to within one point in the third quarter.
In fact, the Knicks took the lead at the 4:45 mark in the fourth quarter. But the Bulls kept on responding as they continued to keep the Knicks at arm's length when it counted.
DeMar DeRozan continued his amazing first season in Chicago as he scored 18 of his team-high 34 points in the fourth quarter.
Julius Randle led the Knicks with 30 points.
Dominant First Half
The Bulls took advantage of a short-handed Knicks team. New York was without both Kemba Walker and RJ Barrett for the game. The Bulls were missing Coby White due to COVID protocols.
Nikola Vucevic (27 points) continued his return to form. The Bulls' big man picked off right where he left off after scoring 30 points against Charlotte on Monday. He scored the team's first seven points, and nine of the first 13.
Alex Caruso (6 points, 4 steals) also played a key role, drawing three offensive charges in the first half. Two of those were Taj Gibson moving screen fouls, the second of which angered Gibson and got him tossed in the first quarter. Caruso also contributed in other areas and finished the first half with six points, six assists, and five rebounds.
DeRozan found his stroke in the second quarter. He scored eight straight points for the Bulls, all from his clutch mid-range game. Overall, the Bulls provided a balanced scoring attack as DeRozan, LaVine, and Vucevic all went into halftime in double figures.
Knicks Knock Back
After the Bulls brought an 18-point lead into halftime, the Knicks completely turned the game on its head. Tom Thibodeau adjusted and the Knicks focused on driving into the lane to take advantage of their size inside. New York ended up scoring 66 of its points in the paint.
And after shooting just 2-12 from behind the arc in the first half, the Knicks shot 50% (7-14) from three in the second half. A balance of an inside attack and clutch three-pointers helped the Knicks cut the 18-point Bulls' halftime lead to just six points heading into the fourth.
That Bulls lead disappeared entirely in the last five minutes as a Julius Randle turnaround bank shot gave the Knicks a 106-105 lead with 4:45 to go.
DeMar Continues Excellent Season
When the Bulls were struggling in the second half, shooting just 40% from the field, their premier offseason signing came up big. DeRozan scored 18 of his team-high 34 points in the final 12 minutes, including a huge eight points in the final four minutes.
Zach LaVine also helped after a quiet second half. He added six of his 27 points in the final three minutes of play. But it was a DeRozan floater off the glass with 20 seconds left to extend the Bulls' lead to four, plus a great defensive possession, that all but sealed the win. Chicago improved to 14-8 on the season with the victory at Madison Square Garden.
What’s On Tap Next?
The Bulls will head to Brooklyn to face the Eastern Conference-leading Nets on Saturday night. Billy Donovan's team defeated the Nets 118-95 back in early November.
Be sure to check out the Bulls On Tap podcast for further postgame reaction as well as Chicago basketball analysis and commentary all season.