Bulls nip Knicks in Garden party thriller

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Bulls nip Knicks in Garden party thriller

NEW YORKIt wasnt a Broadway play, but with all of Derrick Roses aerial acrobatics and a game that was entertaining throughout, basketball fans in the Big Apple were treated to a show Thursday night.

Rose (32 points, 13 assists), named an Eastern Conference All-Star starter earlier in the evening, thrilled an audience used to another guard representing Chicago making memories on a big stage, as he led the Bulls (19-6) to a 105-102 victory over the Knicks (6-14).

He was great from the start, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said of his point guard. He got everybody involved early.

A back-and-forth contest right out of the gates, the atmosphere in the revamped Madison Square Garden suggested, despite the home teams disappointing start to the season, a prime-time matchup.

Knicks power forward Amare Stoudemire (34 points, 11 rebounds) and second-year swingman Landry Fields (17 points) were aggressive in the early going and as a result, received encouragement from the crowd, which was behind the duo that played so well a year ago, but were struggling in the current campaign scoring New Yorks first 17 points of the contest.

For the visitors, Rose focused on distributing at the outset and one of the prime beneficiaries was sharpshooter Kyle Korver (16 points), who knocked down three quick triples. Rose then began looking for his own shots and scored on a variety of drives and pull-up jumpers, propelling the Bulls to a 29-25 advantage at the conclusion of the opening period, following a late-quarter jumper by Knicks rookie guard Iman Shumpert (10 points), a native of Oak Park, Ill.

Just trying to make plays. Thats what I think I didnt do in the 76ers game. Making plays for others when people are trying to play that type of defense its kind of like a soft blitz, when I come off pick-and-roll, the big is staying with me until I pass the ball and then, when I passed to Joakim or Booz, they knew what they were doing and that makes the game easier, Rose said afterwards.

Backup point guard C.J. Watson (12 points) showed he was continuing to progress in his recovery from a right-wrist injury, building on Wednesday nights solid performance in a losing effort at Philadelphia and displaying his adeptness at both shooting from the perimeter and penetrating to the rim for crafty finishes, giving the Bulls a slim cushion.

You know when C.J. is in the game, hes going to give you his all. Score the ball, run the team, play defense. He plays great defense and I think thats what people sleep on, praised Rose. The people that we have on the bench, they come in, do more work sometimes than our starters. Theyre always ready, they respond great when guys are out and thats all we can ask for.

We hate losing. We have winners on our team. If we lose, the next game, for sure, we know that team is going to get our all that night, he continued. For sure, knowing that last night, thats a terrible game. Theyre a good team, the Sixers, and tonight, we were just trying to redeem ourselves with this game.

Meanwhile, Stoudemire continued to carry the Knicks offensive load in the close-knit affair while playing center former Bulls draft pick Tyson Chandler (nine points, eight rebounds), an offseason free-agent acquisition for New York, was catching a breather the position where he excelled prior to last years blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade, in a second-unit lineup.

Speaking of Anthony (26 points, six rebounds), the East All-Star starter got somewhat untracked (though not in concert with Stoudemire, a major concern for the Knicks), but Chicagos offensive execution (plays were successfully run to set up open jumpers or favorable one-on-one opportunities), tough defense (exemplified by rookie swingman Jimmy Butler) and overall effort (native New Yorker Joakim Noah, in particular, stood out in this category), something highly scrutinized following a lackluster performance in a loss at Philadelphia the previous evening.

We always say, Youve got to find a way, and I think the good teams in this league find a way to win games. Ideally, youd like to count on both your offense and your defense, and on most nights, if you can be consistent with your defense, it gives you a chance to win on the nights when you dont shoot well. We were fortunate tonight because we were able to score the ball, but we know thats not the way youre going to have success over a long period of time in this league. We have to make the corrections to improve our defense, said Thibodeau.

It says a lot about our team. For the most part, this team will play hard every night and the thing to me that was disappointing about the Philly game was just the turnovers. But I love the resiliency of our team, the resolve of our team, the bounce-back ability of the team. We got great leadership from Derrick today and all our guys. The thing about this team is I think weve got a team of leaders. Its not any one particular guy. Its a whole group of guys, so I thought getting ready to play was a challenge and were looking at four games in five nights, and you can give yourself that excuse or you can find a way to win, and thats what I like about our team.

With their balanced, unselfish and opportunistic offense the guests had 10 fast-break points and nine second-chance points at the half and an aggressive mindset on the defensive end, the Bulls went into the break with a 55-44 lead, after an Anthony putback at the halftime buzzer.

Selfless offense continued to be the Bulls trademark after the intermission, as Rose orchestrated the show, setting up Korver, Noah (10 points, nine rebounds) and Carlos Boozer (16 points, nine rebounds) alike, when he wasnt creating for himself.

However, while the visitors were able to maintain their double-digit edge over the hosts, New York consistently went inside to Stoudemire and Chandler drawing Noahs fourth foul and cut into the deficit, as perimeter players Anthony, Fields and Shumpert also made contributions.

Rose briefly took matters into his own hands, scoring on two consecutive possessions when the hosts trimmed it to a two-point differential, before the Knicks used a trap to force the ball out of his hands, then narrowed the gap behind Anthonys potent scoring.

Anthony tied the game with under a minute left in the period, but after three quarters of play, the Bulls clung to a narrow, 77-75 edge.

With Watson alongside him to start the final stanza and assist with ballhandling duties to combat New Yorks double-team strategy, Rose went on a scoring tear, scoring the Bulls first seven points of the period, mostly on an array of floaters, soon coming to be his patented shot.

He was countered, however, by his counterpart in a No. 1 jersey, Stoudemire, who again stepped up his production with Anthony out of the game, though Roses show-stopping ability, which mesmerized the Garden crowd prevented the Knicks from overtaking their guests.

We stayed together. Were a team, where, in those types of situations, thats when we come together as a team and just try to fight through it. We still had a tough time with stopping them toward the end. They were hitting some great shots. Theyve got great players on their team. We were just trying to hold on to that lead, Rose explained.

I love playing here, man. The crowd really loves basketball, they love basketball and I just love the energy here. They love their team, they talk about you and all that. I love it.

It remained a close-knit affair as the game entered its stretch run when Noah made a huge block on Anthony shot inside, Butler, the rookie Thibodeau left him in the game for defensive purposes hit a pull-up jumper to make it a four-possession game, only to see Anthony match him to make it 101-98 with under a minute remaining in the contest.

Following a timeout, Fields scored to cut the deficit to a single point and the Knicks subsequently engaged in a late-game free throw exhibition, which the Bulls survived, though Anthony following Rose splitting a pair had to miss a game-tying three-point attempt at the buzzer to ensure the contest wouldnt go to overtime.

Finally hit a damn free throw. Thats what Im happy about. Hit one, so hopefully next time, I hit both of them, Rose joked. But just trying to stay positive, just trying to do anything to win. It was me passing the ball earlier in the game and that loosened everything up, and I was just hitting shots tonight.

Added Thibodeau: I think we have guys who have great will to win. I think they play for each other, so whenever we lose, were disappointed as a group, but we try to learn from every game, both when we win and when we lose. I think every game reveals something to you and you should try to learn, and understand, why youre winning and why youre losing, and I think this group does that.

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

For the opening three quarters in Atlanta, the Bulls were off. 

So off, in fact, that Dwyane Wade tweeted an apology to Chicago fans after the game. 

Thanks to a furious run by the Bulls' bench, the final score ended at a respectable 102-93. In reality, though, the Hawks dominated. 

Wade and company trailed by 29 points at half and 30 at the end of three. The 35-year-old shooting guard finished with a minus-18 and just four points while All-Star starter Jimmy Butler posted a team-low minus-22.

The Bulls will look to shake off their lopsided loss against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. 

 

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

The bus was warm before the game started, as the Bulls looked like they wanted no parts of the Atlanta Hawks.

It was evident from the jump that playing with a full and healthy squad for one of the few times this season wasn't enough to arouse their competitive juices, as they put together arguably their worst 48-minute showing in a 102-93 loss at Philips Arena, dropping them to 21-23 in a game they trailed by as many as 34 points.

The practices have apparently been the sterling jewel of effort and competitiveness for the Bulls but it hasn't carried over through the season as the inconsistency continues to be maddening — one that seems to go beyond the "growing pains" mantra that's been fed by all involved so far this year.

"It could be things but I don't want to share it with the media," a sunglasses-clad Dwyane Wade said outside the locker room, in a rare mood of not being elaborative following a loss.

It appears even the professional's professional has gotten a bit more frustrated than usual — understandable considering the way the starters came out with a lack of energy, with more turnovers (eight) than field goals (six) in the first quarter.

"Continue to try to lead behind the scenes," Wade said. "Can't stop when it's bad, when it's good. You gotta be the same."

Fred Hoiberg, fed up with the starters, ran with the reserves for the fourth quarter and outscored the Hawks by nearly 25 points, bringing the lead to 95-90 with a minute left before a Dennis Schroeder jumper restored order with 52.6 seconds left.

Four Hawks scored in double figures led by Schroeder's 25 points and six assists and Paul Millsap scoring 14 while making all four of his shots in just 22 minutes of run.

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Perhaps it's the Hawks being the same kryptonite to the Bulls that the Bulls are to the Toronto Raptors — except the Bulls simply frustrate the Raptors, not embarrass them.

"I have been, we have been, tired of this. I gotta come out better," said Jimmy Butler, who led the Bulls with 19 points in 29 minutes. "I gotta play better from the jump, 48 minutes. That's not the way we're supposed to play. 

"The way we practice is not the way we play in the game. Don't ask me why, I don't know. Starting with me and going down the line, we gotta be better as a whole. Otherwise we'll keep getting our asses beat and it's bad."

The Hawks shot over 60 percent for most of the night until the game devolved into what amounted to a pickup game late. After all, the Hawks seemed to be battling boredom by half, leading 65-36 and shooting 68 percent from the field and hitting 67 percent from three.

"We're gonna look at everything and we'll see how we go out and start tomorrow and a couple days after that, hopefully we figure some things out," Hoiberg said. "They shot over 70 percent in the first quarter and you dig yourselves a hole and it's impossible to get out."

Hoiberg said he would evaluate everything leading into Saturday's game at home against the Sacramento Kings, but Friday didn't seem to present any realistic lineup changes based on performance.

Bobby Portis scored 10 with seven rebounds off the bench, with Jerian Grant scoring 12 and Paul Zipser 10. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic combined to shoot two for nine, so one wonders where Hoiberg can go.

"I don't know. Practice is good. Practice is great," Butler said. "Practice is not gonna win you games. We gotta take what we do in practice and take it over to the game."

The Bulls weren't about to make it any more suspenseful than it had to be, as they started off missing their first 11 3-pointers, often missing multiple open looks on the same possession.

It wasn't relegated to just shooting as the Bulls squandered easy opportunities in easy situations, like Denzel Valentine turning a three-on-one fast break into an airballed finger-roll attempt that he caught himself — a violation, of course.

"I don't know, I can't put a word on it. Because it's just talk," Butler said. "Doesn't matter what you say, if we don't go out there and do it, what the hell is talking gonna do? We've been up and down all year. If we don't guard and turn the ball over, games get out of hand very quickly."

This one was over a few minutes into it, as the Bulls looked like a lifeless squad with no direction and very little fight, short of a minor dustup between Dwight Howard and Robin Lopez in the third quarter.

At that point, though, all Howard had to do is point at the scoreboard, where a 30-point lead did all the necessary talking.

The Bulls trailed by 20 even before Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 35-footer to end the first quarter, sending the Hawks off on a high and seemingly demoralizing the Bulls.

Even Butler's 19-point night, hitting six of his eight shots in 29 minutes, rang hollow. The Bulls could've trotted out a D-League team for the second half to gear up for Saturday's game against Sacramento and been better off than how they performed Friday night.

And for the Bulls, they can't simply just go back to the drawing board. There looks to be something fundamentally wrong with this bunch — either that, or the Atlanta night got the best of them Thursday.