If basketball games were 24 minutes long, the Knicks would be feared. Nobody would want a piece of them—Carmelo, Amar’e, even Toney Douglas—come early May. But alas, the game isn’t 24 minutes, it’s 48. Through the first half tonight, New York looked dangerous and effective on both ends of the floor. Their offense was clicking, the ball was moving, and defensively they controlled the game’s pace. Then halftime happened. Derrick Rose, who was held to 10 first half points (same as Chauncey) and actually looked uncomfortable in half court sets, couldn’t get anything going. New York’s 55-52 lead at the half was mostly due to smart shot selection and solid defense. Five minutes into the third quarter, after the Bulls went on an 18-2 run and ballooned their lead up to 21, all of that hard work built up in the first two periods went for naught. Rose began to put on his MVP show, Noah got himself going at the foul line, Carlos Boozer grabbed basically every defensive rebound possible, and Luol Deng began to knock down wide open jumpers. The Knicks looked helpless against the conference’s best team when the Bulls began to focus. But after going down huge and having the game turn into a blowout, the Knicks bench actually began to fight back a little bit. Toney Douglas, Shawne Williams (I’m counting him as a bench player even though he started tonight), and Bill Walker were all aggressive. In the end, though, it clearly wasn’t enough.
* Landry Fields got things going early with six quick points. It was great seeing him start active; looking cozy with his pull up jumpers and transition layups. Landry cooled off terribly after the first 12 minutes and finished with just eight total points. Later on in the game he struggled beating Kyle Korver off the dribble, which would be a major cause for concern for all who have ever played the game of basketball.
* With the playoffs in immediate sight, Bill Walker continues to ball with serious swag. He had 18 points in 22 minutes, drained three long balls, and led the Knicks back (to trailing by 10) during their third quarter swoon.
* Say what you want about the Bulls not “needing” this game, but Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer were both on the court with a comfy lead as time expired. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the Knicks were playing a lifeless basketball team. Lots of positives—and negatives—to take away.