NEW YORK -- Sometimes in the world of sports, one team just has anothers number and while it remains to be seen if thats the case, the Knicks cant chalk up their 110-106 loss to simply having an off night or missing the star power of Carmelo Anthony, as they could have attributed their previous loss at the United Center earlier this month. While Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau can nitpick all he wants about the furious, ultimately failed comeback by the home team that made a blowout defeat appear to be a close game, beating the top team in the East and frustrating them to the extent that their head coach, leading scorer and defensive anchor were all ejected in the eyes of folks who dont see the Derrick Rose-less squad on a regular basis, this is now a legitimate team.
Well, you get a 25-point lead on the road against a team like this, youre doing a lot of good things. Im disappointed with our poise and discipline in the fourth quarter, starting with me, fourth-quarter technical. So, we gave up 45 points and thats not good. Its not the way we want to close the game, the perfectionist coach evaluated. The problem is, youve got to do it for 48. When youre playing a team that shoots the three the way they shoot the three, if you let your guard down at all, they can make up ground very quickly on you and there were a lot of touch fouls, the free throws, the clock stopped, theyre scoring. We did a lot of things to put them back in position to have a shot, so thats something we have to clean up.
Theyre really good and they keep a lot of pressure on you at all times. So, they missed some shots early that they normally make. We made some. We got off to a good start offensively and that sort of set the tone. I thought our defense and our rebounding was very good in the first half. The third quarter, I thought we were really good and you have to play against them. A 10-point lead, 15-point lead, youre not safe against this team, he continued. That was the nature of the game, so theyre down people and theyre scrambling, but the thing that always gives them a chance is their ability to shoot the three. So, they have you spread out pretty good and if you make a mistake, now youre giving them the three and if youre hugging the line too much, then Feltons penetrating to the hole. Forty-five points is an awful lot of points in a quarter, so Im very concerned about that, but the important thing is I think youve got to find different ways to win. I was pleased with that. This is a hard building to play in. We came in and did what we had to, to get a win, which is what we want.
Thibodeau can say what he wants, but at least defensively with the exception of that bizarre final stanza, in which the Knicks valiantly fought back without Anthony and sixth-man extraordinaire J.R. Smith, who scored 55 of the teams 74 points when they were both disqualified for various reasons, not to mention Tyson Chandler, who was ejected after getting tangled up with Bulls counterpart Joakim Noah he seems to have his former employer figured out. By taking away the deep ball, the weapon that has taken the Knicks to the top of the East, theyve now beaten their historic rivals with and without Anthony in the lineup.
Things were definitely escalating, but I dont think theyre used to being down that much, too. If they were up 20 points, I dont think they would have been that frustrated. Well be playing this team a lot and theyre a very good team, they play very hard and Im just happy we won right now, Noah said. It doesnt say anything. It just says: Bulls, W. Knickerbockers, L.
We feel like we still have our best basketball ahead of us and thats exciting. We feel like we can still get a lot better and to come out, and get a win like this in the Garden, to me, you dont know what it means to me. Im playing in front of my family and my friends. I just felt really blessed to be able to play, he continued, before responding, Nah, not really, when asked if the rivalry between the two big-market teams is beginning to resemble the Bulls-Knicks battles of his adolescence.
Teammate Taj Gibson, another New Yorker, replied otherwise when posed with the same question: It is like the old Bulls-Knicks rivalry. Ever since I got here, I feel like that. Every time we play here, its down to the wire, its always close games and I was just pissed because I couldnt really get into the game and experience what I normally experience, but it was a great game. We defended well, this was a big win for us, especially coming into a tough environment. This crowd understands basketball from every single aspect of the game and this is the Mecca, this is basketball, this is where Im from, so Im just happy we could get the win.
The 29-point, 13-rebound effort of Luol Deng was almost overshadowed by the sideshow of all of the technical fouls, ejections, the Noah-Chandler fracas and even his own left-shoulder injury, but it cant be ignored. Matched up with Anthony, considered one of the elite players at their shared position, Deng came up with a huge performance on both ends.
It was tough. It felt like it was the longest game ever, and there were a lot of distractions. I'm just happy we kept the lead. I know we had a big lead and let it slip, but at the end of the day we won. And that's really what matters, he told CSNChicago.com on the Madison Square Garden floor immediately after the game. I was excited. Melo's such a tough matchup. I see a lot of great players, and I love it. Some days they get the best of me, and some days I do well. I'm happy we got a team that can compete with all these teams, and it gives us a chance to go out there and compete with the best.
Later, in the visitors locker room, he added: We knew we had to come in here and be ready. Theyre a tough team, theyre playing the best in the East right now. Theyve got Melo, whos been playing really well and theyre really confident at home, and we just really had to stay focused the whole game, even when the game got out of hand. When they came back, we did a good enough job to keep the lead.
At the end of the day, thats all that matters. Mentally, this game reinforced to the Bulls what theyre capable of and for the Knicks, whose fans even got caught up in the drama, as spectators were ejected from the arena, at the minimum, they know which team theyd like to avoid in the first round of the playoffs.