10 observations: Bulls suffer second half rout to Knicks


The Chicago Bulls were run off their home court by the New York Knicks Friday night, losing the second half 56-38 en route to a 114-91 loss.

It marked the Bulls' second loss to the Knicks in a span of 72 hours, as their longtime rival swept a mini-series at the United Center. The Bulls have now lost three straight, six of their last eight, and are 11-17 for the season.

Here are 10 observations:

1. The Bulls wasted no time slamming their foot on the gas pedal in this one. The hosts jumped ahead 19-13 at the game's first stoppage (5:52 mark, first quarter), and in that span made eight of their 11 field goal attempts (3-for-5 from 3-point range) and handed out six assists. All without DeMar DeRozan taking a shot.

The Knicks punched back, but ultimately the Bulls won the first quarter 32-29, marking the fourth time in their last fifth games they have won the opening frame.

2. But, like Wednesday, the offensive glass was a problem, particularly as reserve center Andre Drummond fell into early foul trouble by picking up three personals in a first quarter stint that lasted less than two minutes.

In the first four minutes of the second quarter alone (a span in which Derrick Jones Jr. played center), the Knicks pulled down five offensive rebounds, bringing their game-long total at that juncture to nine with nine second-chance points. Seven of those offensive rebounds came via bench players Isaiah Hartenstein (four), Jericho Sims (two) and Miles McBride (one).

3. The Bulls steadied the ship and actually had the Knicks on their heels in the final five minutes of the second quarter, pulling ahead 48-41. But in New York's moment of need, Jalen Brunson (22 points, 6-for-9 from 3-point range) stepped up to nail three straight well-contested 3-pointers, catalyzing a 17-5 run in the final 3:06 of the period — that could have been even worse if the Knicks had not gone 3-for-7 from the free throw line in that stretch — to lead 58-53 at halftime.

Aiding that spurt was the Bulls committing seven second quarter turnovers. Although the Knicks only converted three points off those takeaways, it disrupted the Bulls' offensive rhythm after a scalding start.

4. Matters only devolved further in a third quarter the Knicks won 29-22 to carry a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter. In that frame, the Knicks blitzed a dreary Bulls group to force five turnovers and at one juncture take as much as a 16-point lead.

In fact, it got so bad that Donovan actually closed the final 1:33 of the third quarter — and opened the first 2:38 of the fourth — without any of DeRozan, Zach LaVine or Nikola Vučević on the floor. The Bulls were -1 in that stretch, and -4 in the fourth quarter minutes alone, as Donovan attempted but failed to find a spark from a reserve group of Coby White, Goran Dragić, Ayo Dosunmu, Javonte Green and Drummond.

5. Donovan turned back to his starting group — Caruso, LaVine, DeRozan, Williams and Vučević — trailing 95-79 at the 7:54 mark of the fourth quarter.

A series of Knicks daggers soon followed.

In the roughly three-and-a-half minutes following that substitution, New York scored 12 straight points, the first six of which came by way of contested Julius Randle 3-pointers. The Bulls' offense stalled out too, with Williams and DeRozan missing midrange jumpers, Vučević missing a floater, LaVine committing, consecutive turnovers, Caruso and DeRozan missing jumpers, and Williams short-arming a layup.

At the end of that stretch, the Bulls trailed by 28 points with 4:28 to play and had been outscored 20-4 in the fourth quarter. Donovan pulled his starters.

7. That starting unit, for what it's worth, sported a +11.9 net rating in 210 non-garbage time possessions entering play, according to Cleaning the Glass. On Friday, that unit started the first quarter strong (+6 in 6:40). But it was downhill from there. Together, they closed the second quarter meekly (-11 in 4:45), opened the third quarter similarly (-6 in 6:40) and were completely listless in a fourth quarter stretch they were outscored 12-0.

By night's end, LaVine (five) and DeRozan (four) had committed almost half of the Bulls' 20 turnovers, and Vučević (nine points on eight shots) was a non-factor after exhibiting frustration with the officials in the second quarter.

8. Give the Knicks credit for this: They shot well above their previously established baseline from 3-point range in this mini-series. After entering Wednesday's game dead last in the NBA in 3-point percentage (31.9), they shot 18-for-34 from that distance in their overtime win and 17-for-44 (38.6 percent) on Friday.

9. The Bulls shot 54.8 percent from the field on Wednesday, and 46.8 percent on Friday (compared to 40.2 percent by the Knicks). But they lost both games.

How? Simply put, the Knicks dominated the possession battle by pulling down 15 offensive rebounds (14 second-chance points) and forcing 20 turnovers (scoring 24 points off of them). For the game, they attempted 92 field goals to the Bulls' 77.

It was the second game in a row the Knicks drastic size advantage led to a massive advantage on the glass. The Knicks outrebounded the Bulls 50-39 (15-2 offensive) Friday after winning the boards 48-31 Wednesday.

10. Following some boos midway through the fourth quarter, the United Center turned its attention to willing Derrick Rose, who has been outside Tom Thibodeau's rotation for the last six games, into the contest. They got their wish:

The "MVP" chants were to be expected. But the crowd also reacted in surprised delight when Rose confidently drilled a 3-pointer as well.

Indeed, it was a night best spent reflecting on better times rather than dwelling on the present.

Next up for the Bulls: At the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

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