Great Game. Tough Loss. Chicago 119 NY 115

It was a Great game to watch. It was a tough game to lose. NY came back from a 21-point early game deficit, and an 18-point halftime deficit — and began their run in the 3rd — pulling to within a point. It was frenetic nip and tuck action the rest of the way — throughout the 4th quarter, with the Knicks finally gaining a 1-point lead on a Julius Randle jumper with 4:45 left in the game. MSG was Rocking on a Thursday night.

Down the stretch it was more frenetic action with DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine trading buckets with Randle, but the guard duo proved too much as the Knicks went down to defeat. Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley missed jumpers; DeRozan buried his, and both he and LaVine buried the Knicks from the free throw line — going 6-6 in the final minute.

With the loss NY falls to 11-11; Chicago improves to 15-8. DeRozan has made Chicago a much stronger team than last year.

“The thing that hurt us most were the turnovers,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “They usually fall into one of two categories — too much one-on-one, or you’re trying a risky pass. Sometimes I think the intentions are good because we’re in a hole and we’re trying to get out. I thought the 2nd half was much better; but we dug ourselves a big hole, and we expended a lot of energy to get out of that hole.”

1. Randle a Beast

Julius Randle was a beast all evening — his second All-Star-Caliber game in a row after several poor shooting games. As DeRozan scored on one end, Randle took it to Chicago on the other down the stretch — and actually all night with power moves and mid-range jumpers.

Randle finished with 30 points on 14-21 shooting (no 3’s taken), 12 rebounds and 6 assists. He also had 7 turnovers, which he admitted afterwards was “way too many.”

2. Robinson a Monster

If Julius Randle was a beast; Mitchell Robinson was a monster. He had his best shot-blocking game of the year — with 5 blocks.

Robinson also was scoring on dunks inside — 3-5 for 9 points and importantly, 3-3 from the free throw line, in 30 minutes. It was his best overall game of the year.

However, the Bulls Nikola Vucevic was constantly getting wide open at the 3-point line as Robinson did not go out to defend him out there — something Robinson used to be known for. The Knicks coaching staff have drilled into Robinson the idea of patrolling the paint that he didn’t rush out to guard Vucevic’s 3’s, and Vucevic nailed many — going 5-9 from out there and 10-18 overall for 29 points.

As the Knicks made their run in the 3rd throughout the 4th, Vucevic’s 3’s are what kept Chicago in the game.

3. Reserves Drive Knicks’ Engine Again

The Knicks made their run in the 3rd and throughout the 4th with the energetic play of their bench as usual. Immanuel Quickley was actually a starter in this game as RJ Barrett was out with illness. And Alec Burks is now the starting point guard.

“Alec had a tough cover all night,” said Thibodeau afterwards. “You can put a lot into guarding DeRozan and he still has the ability to make tough shots. But he battled him. I thought Quick had a tough matchup with LaVine, but he made some good hustle plays for us too.”

Quickley had 15 points in 38 minutes, and was on the court with his offensive energy and in-your-pants defense throughout the 4th.

Burks played 43 minutes at the point; he had 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Obi Toppin had 8 points (4-6 shooting) in 19 minutes, and Derrick Rose provided 16 points off the bench (4-6 shooting, 8-8 in free throws).

Evan Fournier had a good game — 16 points on 6-14 shooting. His hustle plays in the 3rd helped ignite the Knicks comeback. “I thought his hustle did get us going (in the 3rd quarter),” said Thibodeau afterwards. Fournier had a terrific block late on Alex Caruso — initially called a foul but on review it was declared a clean block.

4. Missing & Not In Action

RJ Barrett missed the game with a non-COVID illness. Nerlens Noel was out as well, and Taj Gibson was tossed after 2 technicals early in the game after complaining about being called for several moving screens. That left Mitchell Robinson to defend the paint most of the night, with help from Randle, Toppin, and Kevin Knox — who was 2nd man off the bench for 4 minutes.

The Boxscore

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