Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010
Posted: 1:36 p.m. Updated: 3:48 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
NEW YORKWith previous Christmas Day contests between the Knicks (18-12) and Bulls (18-10) in mind, the Madison Square Garden matchup between the two formerly fierce Eastern Conference rivals didnt quite live up to prior classics, as a turnover-plagued Chicago effort eventually succumbed to New Yorks offensive-minded approach, 103-95, Saturday.
Chicago got off to quite the inauspicious start, turning the ball over on its first three possessions. Knicks star Amare Stoudemire (20 points, nine rebounds, six blocked shots, seven turnovers) made a big impact from the outset, scoring the initial pair of baskets for the home team, then drilling Derrick Rose (25 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, six steals, seven turnovers)after an initial reach-in foul on forward Wilson Chandler (15 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks)sending the Bulls superstar sprawling.
The games physicality was a persistent pattern throughout, especially as it impacted Rose, who shot only three free throws on the night, despite constant forays to the basket and being on the receiving of numerous knocks from the Knicks.
Im not going to stop coming. One day Im going to get calls, so thats what Im going to continue to do, said Rose. You can look and see how many times I went to the line tonight.
Carlos Boozer concurred, Hes attacking the basket, just like anybodytransition and halfcourt. I thought he could have got a lot more calls going his way. The refs didnt see it that way. Were not going to cry about the referees, but I think he puts as much pressure on the basket as anybody in the NBA and for him to shoot only three free throws is shocking. For D, I just tell him to keep going, keep attacking; hopefully hell get the callsbut he more pressure on the basket than most guys I see, so for him to only shoot three free throws is uncommon, weird. But were not going to cry about that.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau refused to let that be an excuse for the loss.
You dont want to take away from his aggressiveness. I think you want him to attack the rim and then when the second defender is there, make the decision at the rim, so if hes there, now find the open man. Hes going to pull a lot of people with him. We want him to keep going. Hes driving the ball hard and we want him to get to the line more, so were going to encourage him to continue to drive and to drive with force, and hopefully, you can get some calls, said Thibodeau. We didnt have a problem with the officiating. Youre on the road, some calls arent going to usually go your way, so we have to be able to play through those things. We cant allow that to affect the way we play and defensively, I didnt think we played our game. The rebounding was very goodI thought that right from the startbut our defense, thats a big part of it and it wasnt.
After the games uneven beginning, both teams settled into more of a flow, with each preferring up-tempo styles. Rose began to assert his will on the affair; in his trademark swashbuckling fashion, he attacked the rim successfully and was aided by Boozer (26 points, 19 rebounds, seven turnovers) muscling up putbacks on the interior.
Roses aggressiveness led to a cross-match battle of sorts with Stoudemire, who made a clean block at the summit of a Rose transition layup, which the All-Star point guard pointedly acknowledged. On the other end, Stoudemire was perhaps a bit overzealous in forcing his offenseRose balanced his penetration with looking to distribute the ball, as well as knocking down perimeter jumpers and making some football defensive back-type steals of Knicks outlet passesbut due to Chicagos poor shooting and turnover issues, the home team still maintained a 21-20 advantage after the first period.
A disjointed opening of the second quarter for the Garden guests allowed New York to slightly surge, as the Bulls carelessness with the ball persisted. Boozer remained Chicagos focal point early in the period with mixed results, but a quick individual spurt by backup point guard C.J. Watson helped keep the visitors in the game.
Thibodeau briefly opted for a small-ball lineupwith Boozer needing a blow, he briefly went with Watson, starting small forward Luol Deng (15 points, six rebounds), Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korverand the size disadvantage paid dividends for the Knicks, as they went scored five points on one trip down the floor. Thibodeau quickly sent Rose and starting center Kurt Thomas back into the contest.
The adjustments and Korvers marksmanship again made the game a neck-and-neck affair, but New York backup point guard Toney Douglas continued to be the scourge of Chicagothe second-year reserve went for a career-high point total in last months
Knicks win at the United Centergiving his team some scoring punch off the bench in a brief stint.
Underrated rookie Landry Fields (14 points, 11 rebounds) continued a quietly productive outing with his solid all-around play, as did Boozer for Chicago, mostly by virtue of finishing strong on the interior, albeit not as efficiently as he would have liked. With the final seconds in the first half winding down, a Rose drive-and-dish to Boozer for a open 15-footer with no time remaining gave the Bulls a 54-52 lead at intermission.
After a disappointing first half of play, Deng started the third quarter by making the first two Chicago baskets, although that bit of good news was tempered by Thomas picking up his fourth foul.
I thought he had two tough calls, Thibodeau said of the veteran ex-Knick Thomas, who played solid defense against his former Phoenix teammate Stoudemire. Two tough calls put him on the bench.
The game evolved into a back-and-forth affair, with each squad throwing haymakersa Rose runner, plus the foul; two powerful Stoudemire dunksat the other, but even with the game close, the Knicks clearly had the momentum, as point guard Raymond Felton (20 points, 12 assists, five steals) hit a 3-pointer and a layup (sandwiched around a Bulls shot-clock violation) that led to a subsequent Thibodeau timeout to quiet the raucous crowd.
With the entire Garden behind them, New York gradually built a small cushion behind transition play and perimeter shootingsharpshooting forward Danilo Gallinari (15 points) stood out in this departmentits two trademarks under Knicks head coach Mike DAntoni, not to mention Feltons blend of scoring and playmaking.
They spread you out. They play four perimeter players, so you have to trust that your teammates are going to pull in and also get out to that 3-point line. If the trust isnt there, you start inching out towards the 3-point line, now youre going to give up a dunk. If you pull in too much, we dont get back in front of the ball quick enough, then youre going to be vulnerable at the 3-point line, said Thibodeau. Its a multiple-effort type game, so youre going to have to do more than one thing and sometimes you can play good, solid defense for the majority of the shot clock and they still end up with a high-percentage shot because youve got to be able to go to the second and third and fourth effort with them, the way they shoot the ball.
Rose told CSNChicago.com: I think it was our defense. I think that just playing the way that we play normally on the defensive end, with first stopping the ball and our help-side, but it all starts with trusting each other. But it was just one of those games.
The Bulls, however, battled back and capped by consecutive video-game highlights by Roseand in-and-out dribble to a reverse layup, then a nifty spin move in transition for another layup on the subsequent possessionthey briefly regained the lead before, typical of the close-knit affair, the Knicks again surged ahead late in the quarter to head into the final period up, 85-83.
Still playing greyhounds chasing the rabbit early in the fourth quarter, the Bulls were forced to play catch-up with the Knicks and were further hampered by Thomas picking up his fifth foul. The games pace slowed to a crawl, as things got chippyin particular, between Rose and Stoudemire, who was perhaps frustrated by Boozers surprisingly stout one-on-one defense against himbut New York, buoyed by its energetic fans, had momentum on its side midway through the period.
Thats just basketball. Stoudemire was trying to stop me from going to the hole and that was about it, Rose explained about the hits he took from the New York big man, which surprisingly werent called fouls, although they occurred after Rose was first fouled by another Knicks player. Its going to get physical, especially if somebody keeps driving. Hes a big man, thats what hes supposed to do.
It was just a basketball playId get tired of it if another player kept driving to the hole, too, if that was someone else, Rose added, when pressed by reporters to state his opinion on whether he believed Stoudemire took a cheap shot at him. I really dont know. I really didnt pay any attention to that, but both timesuntil I looked backI thought the foul was on him.
It got heated up for a minute, but its nothing more than that, he eventually acknowledged.
Chicago simply couldnt get over the hump and despite neither team seemingly able to make a shot for an extended stretch, the Knicks eked out enough points to add to their advantage. The visitors drought was more severe and combined with the officials calls not going their way and timely New York scoring, things looked bleak for the Bulls heading into the games stretch run.
When the double team is coming quick, which it was, we have to make quick decisions and we have to have great spacing. Now, it should result in easy offense. Anytime you can get two defenders on the ball, thats what you want, and then your ball movement should take over. Your second and third pass, if you move the ball to the weak side, youre going to have long close-outs and you should be able to attack, so we have to do a better job with that, Thibodeau explained about the Bulls offensive lapses. The initial spacings fine, but then we have the ability to sustain the spacing through the second and third option. Then, after the double team occurs, they were coming off the passer on the cut. Weve got to space better.
Added Boozer, We got double teamed. They did a good job of putting us in the trap. We tried to get the ball out to the right spots, but we needed more movement, more guys cutting, more guys helping us out. Consequently, because we didnt have guys moving to the open areas, it put us in a tough position to try to make a play out of a double team.
A Chandler layup off a Felton lob pass gave the Knicks their first double-digit lead as the game approached the two-minute mark gave the Bulls impetus to finally score, but Chandler then answered with another jumper to again increase New Yorks winning margin to 10 points. Chicago would make another push, cutting their deficit to six points with a minute and change to go.
Alas, yet another turnoveron a miscommunication between Rose and Thomascompounded by a Chandler layup on the ensuing possession sealed the Bulls fate. Despite a final last-gasp effort, there would be no Christmas miracle on the 34th St. on this day.
This is a great place to play. Great arena, great fans. Their team is good again, so its alive. Great history in the building. We had a great opportunity today to play on Christmas Day. I thought our effort was there. I just didnt think we played as well as we were capable of, said Thibodeau. I thought we were ready to play. I thought we had a good practice yesterday, I thought walk-through was very good. I just didnt think we executed as well as we would have liked.
Rose lamented the lost opportunity, but in his usual manner, is already looking forward to the next chance to get a win.
We couldnt get a rhythm on the defensive side or the offensive side, said Rose. We just let them come in and do whatever they wanted to do.
The good thing about is we play tomorrow, he continued. We let this one go tonight. We didnt play the way we were supposed to play, but we get the chance to take it out on Detroit. Thats the good thing about it.
But following his teams second loss to the Knicks this season, Rose did leave the famed arena with a message: Were going to get them. Im not worried about that. Were going to get them.
Maybe a revival of the rivalry that was in his heyday when Rose was in grammar schoolcomplete with physical play, superstars on both sides, nationally-televised showcases, postseason-bound teams and allis possible after all.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.