Bulls 82, Knicks 81

New York Knicks 81 Final
Recap | Box Score
82 Chicago Bulls
Andrea Bargnani, PF

25 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | -9

Fine. Not his fault Woody started him and played him a bit too much. We should be using him like we used Novak and taking his ability to penetrate and draw fouls as gravy. I think that gets figured out eventually. Tonight he hit a few shots and competed gamely on defense. More rebounds would be great but so would…I don’t know…something equally unrealistic? A pet unicorn whose horn was also a satellite receiver? That would be pretty tight. What were we talking about? Oh, Bargs. By no means should he be a part of the crunch-time lineup right now and, to Woody’s credit, he wasn’t.

Carmelo Anthony, SF

42 MIN | 8-24 FG | 4-5 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 6 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 22 PTS | -6

Such a weird game. He had 6 steals and 6 assists and played excellent team defense. His shot wasn’t going which happens to everybody from time to time but his offensive approach the last 4 minutes of the game was horrible and probably prevented the Knicks from stealing a road win on the second night of a back-to-back against one of the 4 best teams in their conference. I get that hero ball is a part of the NBA, I get that Iso-Melo is a thing that is going to happen in the closing moments of close games. I am at peace with it. But it strikes me as very odd that we can erase a 12 point deficit through cohesive, movement-intensive team offense and then decide that Melo, like some sort of latter-day Jerome Bettis, has the right to put it over the goal line. He will win us plenty of games this year but on this night against Luol Deng and this Thibodeau-designed defense, he bailed the Bulls out.

Tyson Chandler, C

36 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 19 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 4 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | +8

You remembered that when he’s 100% he’s the best and most important player on the team, right? That he fits perfectly with Melo, perfectly with a defensive philosophy built on switching and jumping passing lanes, perfectly with a point guard that gets by on herky-jerky savvy and workaday efficiency rather than lightning quickness and stylistic flair, perfectly with teammates that like to chuck up threes and wait for their human-ball-return of a pivot man to give them do-overs on their misses? That he’s an unstoppable roll man that creates historically high-percentage chances and forces opposing post players into early foul trouble? That he plays team defense the way Steve Atwater played free safety and motivates his teammates by the sheer force of personality exuded by every glare, every chest-pound, every primal yell?

Did you remember? Now you remember.

Raymond Felton, PG

37 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-3 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +6

He looks quicker to me this season. He’s looked more comfortable to me since the calendar turned to 2013 and he was paired with Prigioni and given as much opportunity to freelance off the ball as to dominate it and create for others. On the ball, he’s far more dangerous with an athletic roll man at his disposal and right now he’s getting precisely that from the rejuvenated Chandler. The shot was off tonight but he protected the ball (2 turnovers in 37 minutes) and defended (bull)doggedly, staying in front of Rose when his number was called and switching away sharply when required. His one three-point make was a huge one that gets lost in the defeat. If 2 of his misses drop it’s a really good game.

Iman Shumpert, SG

25 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +1

Not much in the way of numbers tonight but the Knicks’ best defensive lineups this year are going to be the ones that involve at least 2 (and often 3) of him, Chandler, World Peace, and Prigs just jumping passing lanes and closing out on guys hard and applying full-court pressure and generally being a pain in everybody else’s ass. I can’t wait to see more of it.

Amar’e Stoudemire, PF

11 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 5 PTS | -3

I guess it doesn’t look that bad on paper — 5 points on 3 shots in 11 minutes — but I was sad watching Stoudemire tonight. His legs just aren’t there anymore and given that there hasn’t been any injury news to speak of lately and he took last night off, that probably means they ain’t coming back. He’s got little to offer as a roll man; no less a defensive stiff than Mike Dunleavy was able to beat him to his spot, set himself, and draw a charge tonight. He’s not getting any rebound he has to compete for and, cruelly, just when he seems like he’s started to know where to be on defense, he doesn’t have the athleticism to bang with the big boys or stay in front of his man. Looking at STAT, I think of Antonio McDyess, another impossibly athletic 4 who lost his legs and had to completely change his game to claim a second act to his career. STAT will never be the gritty defender that McDyess was but if he can accept that he’s now a post scorer (and a damn good one) and mid-range jump shooter (ditto) and Woodson can find creative ways to use him as such, he still has a great chance to be a useful offensive player. Defensively, he’s GOT to rebound. It was never his primary strength but if his shot-blocking days are over (they are) and he can no longer be the athletic centerpiece of an offense (he can’t) he needs to commit himself to locking down the defensive glass.

Basically, I want him to be a poor man’s David Lee. Hence the sadness.

Kenyon Martin, PF

4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2

Here’s something that makes no sense. Woodson starts Bargnani tonight and, in explaining his decision, emphasizes his determination to go big against a Bulls team that bangs on the interior and relies on a penetrating point guard on offense.

Two things:

1) This is stupid and I expect better from a head coach who showed legitimate creativity last season. Bargs is seven feet tall but you don’t use him to “go big” (unless you’re playing him at, like, shooting guard) you specifically use him to “go small.” It’s an intellectually dishonest claim that sounds like ass-covering from a coach who was instructed to start the team’s biggest offensive acquisition at least some of the time. I admittedly have no idea whether this is true, I just choose to believe that Woodson doesn’t actually believe such a BS justification.

2) But, OK, fine, you want to go big. Why make Martin unavailable tonight? You know the season starts with a back to back and you know the Bulls are on the tail end of it. Why use K-Mart against the Bucks instead of letting him spell Chandler tonight and protect the rim from Rose and co.? Why throw STAT to the wolves and make him guard Noah and Boozer instead of Larry Sanders and John Henson? It smacks of the type of short-sightedness that the league’s top coaches simply don’t fall victim to. And we lost by one freaking point tonight, so you can’t say it didn’t matter.

Metta World Peace, SF

23 MIN | 3-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -4

Shot badly, defended hard, marginalized down the stretch by iso-Melo. Starting to sound familiar?

Pablo Prigioni, PG

11 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -7

Love his defense, love his wiles, needs to take his own shot when it’s there. Had two extremely clean looks at threes and passed into traffic each time. Again, one point game, little things.

Tim Hardaway Jr., SG

27 MIN | 4-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +7

His stroke is pretty but wasn’t true tonight. Don’t care. Competes on defense, takes his shot in the flow of the offense, grinds all night. He can play on my team any day. We are getting very good at finding guards in the middle part of the draft.

As a side note, his build and movement remind me so much of Anfernee Hardaway, which is odd since they share a last name but aren’t related. That he doesn’t look like his father will spare me much self-reflection that I frankly lack the time for. Double points!

Mike Woodson

The season turns on games like this: a back to back on the road against a good team that didn’t have its fastball. If we just want to be a playoff team, we can write off a road loss against the Bulls no matter the circumstances. If we want our name on the short list, though, we need to grab winnable games by the throat and worry about people’s feelings later. And tonight, for this coach, that meant telling the star that the last couple of possessions are his but the 5 or 6 before them have to look like the ones that brought us back from a 12-point hole. It meant realizing before the start of LAST night’s game that 12-15 minutes of Kenyon Martin vs. the Bulls was an absolute must.

The D grade is for not doing those things. The “Plus” is for the team’s excellent defensive effort and Woody’s willingness to deviate from what one presumes was the initial plan and sit Bargs down the stretch.

Five Things We Saw

  1. Fantastic team defense. Holding the opposition to 41% shooting is good enough in its own right but when that number includes only 3 made three-pointers and is accompanied by 18 turnovers and only 19 FT attempts, it’s sensational. All told, 82 points on 89 possessions for Chicago tonight. No matter how rusty Rose was, that’s awesome.
  2. Speaking of Rose, at some point tonight I’m going to try to suspend my frustration over this loss (indeed, my very Knick fandom), rewatch his game-winner, and smile for just a moment. Derrick Rose is back and the NBA is that much richer for it.
  3. And as for that game-winning rainbow floater, the Knicks defended it perfectly. Just a great player making a tough shot, nothing to complain about.
  4. Oh yeah, that’s right, there IS one thing to complain about which is that if we just ran the freaking offense for the last 4 minutes of the game, we’re probably up 6 points and the Bulls never have a chance to win it. I usually dig Steve Kerr’s work, but his comment after Rose hit the shot (“It’s a superstar game down the stretch!”) was utterly asinine. To effusively and unreservedly praise Rose’s make (and the philosophy that led to it) after the preceding 3 minutes of hero ball from Rose and Melo prevented either team from putting away a game that was being handed to it (the Bulls missed their previous NINE shots and the Knicks hardly looked better) was the type of head-in-the-sand cheerleading by a prominent analyst that leads casual NBA observers to think the sport that we love is something very different from what it actually is and to think that teams like the Spurs are boring when what they actually are is awesome. Other than that, great point.
  5. If the defense plays like this all year, the Knicks will win 55 games. I hope we weren’t just being the ’93 Knicks for Halloween (if we were, losing a winnable game to the Bulls in heartbreaking fashion was a pretty effective flourish).

Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).