NEW YORK – The Chicago Bulls entered Tuesday night’s match-up with the New York Knicks having won five of their last six games, a stretch that vaulted the team from dead-in-the-water on the outside looking into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, to the seventh seed after picking up wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Atlanta Hawks in the last week.
Tuesday night however, the Bulls looked more like the Bulls of most of the season, trailing the banged-up New York Knicks for the majority of the game, even staring down a 25-point deficit at one point in the game.
Jimmy Butler, who has carried the Bulls back into the playoff discussion over the last two weeks, did his part on Tuesday night, pouring in 26 points in the losing effort. Butler has recorded three 30+ point performances during the Bulls most recent stretch of looking like a basketball team with a pulse.
The Bulls came out of the gate slow on Tuesday night, ending the opening quarter trailing by five, and were again outscored in the second quarter as the Knicks took a 54-40 lead into the half at Madison Square Garden.
The Bulls would pull back to within nine points before the final buzzer to make the final score of 100-91 look respectable, but an overall sluggish performance on Tuesday night saw the Bulls get outworked in most aspects of the game. The Bulls defense was lethargic and just couldn’t string together stops, allowing the Knicks to shoot nearly 50 percent on the evening.
The Knicks also had the edge in the rebounding category, outworking the Bulls 53-36 on the glass. Bulls Head Coach Fred Hoiberg highlighted the Bulls effectiveness on the glass as a focal point of their game during their recent winning streak, and said that tonight however, “we just got our asses kicked” in the rebounding game.
Nikola Mirotic, who has seen his highest scoring outputs of his NBA career over the recent weeks, was ice cold tonight from deep, shooting just 2-8 from beyond the three-point arc but still putting together a 21 point effort by shooting 5-7 on two-point field goals, and a perfect 5-5 from the charity stripe. Mirotic also scraped 10 rebounds on the evening to notch the double-double.
After tonight’s loss to the Knicks, the Bulls have fallen into a tie with the Indiana Pacers for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with a 38-40 record. The Bulls are also only a half game ahead of the Miami Heat at the end of play this evening, and will likely need to win their remaining games to assure them a spot in the playoffs after tonight’s low-energy performance.
The Bulls will visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday evening, before heading to Brooklyn on Saturday night and then returning to the United Center for a a pair of games against the Magic next Monday, and the Nets next Wednesday to close out the regular season schedule.
Tip off for the Bulls visit with the 76ers on Thursday night will be at 6:00 pm (CT), and you can catch the action live on CSN-Chicago, WLS-890AM, and the NBC Sports App.