Bulls Lead

Bulls Implode Late, Fall to 1-3

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If you’ve ever heard the saying, “It doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish”, the Chicago Bulls on Monday night exemplified that in the worst way possible as they fell to the New York Knicks 105-98.

RECAP

From the opening tip it appeared that the Bulls were locked in to run away with the game early. The defensive rotations were strong and the ball movement on offense looked even better. The Bulls went on an immediate 18-6 run that silenced the crowd at Madison Square Garden. A quick seven points from Otto Porter Jr. and an additional six points from star guard Zach LaVine had Chicago on cruise control early.

The bench unit picked up right where the starting five left off. Thaddeus Young poured in seven first quarter points as he went on to have a season-high 15 points by the end of the night. The Bulls convincingly held the Knicks to only 15 first quarter points and 27% shooting from the field as they led by 18 after the first quarter.

Sadly, the first 12 minutes of basketball was the only positive thing to happen for the Bulls the rest of the night. For a team in the Bulls that needed a spark after suffering a 22-point loss to the Toronto Raptors, everything else that would transpire for the last 36 minutes of the game could leave long lasting effects to a young Bulls team. From the second quarter on, the Knicks would proceed to outscore the Bulls 90-65. New York put on their shooting shoes to start the second quarter as Wayne Ellington hit back-to-back three pointers to put the Knicks on an 8-0 run. From there on, the Knicks began to chip away as the Bulls’ offensive ball movement and defensive rotations began to disappear as the game went on. New York was able to cut the deficit to eight and still trailed heading into halftime 52-42.

Although the Bulls did come out and shoot well to start the second half, Bobby Portis took over The Garden. For every Wendell Carter putback slam or Thaddeus Young jumper, Portis had an answer. Even though the Bulls would attempt to pull away late once again with back-to-back threes by Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, the basketball gods were not in their favor. Portis scored 22 of his 28 points on the night in the second half. He would go on a personal 6-0 run in the 3rd quarter to keep pace with Chicago.

Coming into the game, however, Portis had surprisingly not cracked into double-digit points in a game yet. The former Bulls 1st round pick back in 2015, Portis was traded last season to the Wizards before signing with the Knicks this offseason. After becoming a fan favorite with the Bulls over three seasons, fans of Bulls basketball knew that Portis had this game circled on his calendar.

Portis turned up the dial late in the 4th quarter. Knicks head coach David Fizdale elected to keep the red-hot Portis in the game over struggling center Mitchell Robinson. The decision led to the Knicks winning their first game of the season. Portis would drop in 12 fourth quarter points. None bigger than back-to-back go ahead three pointers against your former team.

The air was officially taken out of the Bulls’ sails as soon as Portis’s final three of the night made it 103-98. RJ Barrett would head to the free throw line late and nail both of his free throws to ice the game for New York. The Bulls failed to score in the last 3:33 of the contest.

Chicago went from shooting a blistering 54% after the first quarter to just 35% for the rest of the night. Porter failed to score after the 8:02 mark of the first quarter, Markkanen shot just 38% from the field, LaVine had just five points in the fourth quarter and Tomas Satoransky’s struggles with his new team continued as he notched just two points on five shots.

The only two bright spots to note were from Wendell Carter and Thaddeus Young, both of whom scored and defended extremely all throughout tonight. Carter finished with a 20-point/10-rebound double-double to go along with Young’s 15 points off the bench. Once again, Chicago added onto their league worst 27% team three-point shooting by making just 9 of their 35 shots attempted. As awful as that may sound, the Knicks absolutely pulverized the Bulls on the boards. 25 offensive rebounds allowed by the Bulls’ defense as they were out rebounded 63 to 38.

ANALYSIS

Overall, this is the type of loss you lose sleep over. It wasn’t just the way they lost the game. It was who they lost the game too. Every Bulls fan and almost every NBA analyst alike had Chicago winning this matchup. Despite only being marginally better on paper. For whatever reasons the Bulls abandoned what got them an 18-point lead in the first place: high energy on both ends. As soon as the energy wore off, so did the ball movement and sharp defensive rotations. With the Bulls now falling to 1-3 on the season, this is the second occurrence thus far in which the Bulls lost games they really shouldn’t have. An embarrassing loss on opening night to the Charlotte Hornets, followed by a massive collapse spearheaded by one of their former players is not exactly how head coach Jim Boylen drew up how this 2019-20 would start.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Wendell Carter Jr.: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 7/9 shooting (77%)

 

Next Game: @ Cleveland Cavaliers (1-2) Wednesday, 6:00 PM CT

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