It can all turn so quickly.
Not that the good vibes are gone, but as evidenced by the smattering of boos given to Derrick Rose in his return to Chicago for the first time as a visitor, things can change in the blink of an eye, in the torque of a leg, in a 48-minute span.
The New York Knicks came into the United Center and treated the building as if it were their own with a 117-104 win Friday night in Rose and Joakim Noah’s return since moving on to the Knicks this offseason.
If the Bulls wanted to show their former mates life has gotten oh-so-much better without them around, they failed to send the message as it was the Knicks who played harmoniously and with savvy in an electric environment, taking an early 22-6 lead and having the Bulls play catch-up all night long.
“They came out and played with great energy,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They got two guys coming back to a franchise, the only one they played for. I knew they would come out with great energy.”
Rose was cheered and booed through the night, even egging the fans on in the third quarter after a free-throw line jumper, his first field goal outside the paint as he scored 15 with a season-high 11 assists and seven rebounds.
“I don’t know, I probably forgot it. It was probably from someone taunting me,” Rose said. “I love to compete, I’m a competitor. That’s all it was.”
Noah scored in double figures for the first time as a Knick, with 14 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Noah and Rose were the pregame headliners but second-year forward Kristaps Porzingis helped give the Bulls the blues, with 27 points and five rebounds. Rose gushed about Porzingis’ game while chatting with reporters, and it was easy to see why he’s regarded as one of the best young talents the NBA has to offer.
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Hitting triples in transition, feasting off mismatches caused by defensive switches from the Bulls that shouldn’t have occurred, he took full advantage of everything the Bulls allowed—and they allowed just about everything.
“There was just no real urgency coming out of the gate tonight,” Hoiberg said. “We were retreating on our hells all night.”
Despite the start, the Bulls clawed back into the game, going on a 49-27 run to take a six-point lead before the half, as Dwyane Wade launched triple after triple to cut the deficit.
Not surprisingly, the Bulls’ best defensive quarter was when they took control, holding the Knicks to 45.5 percent shooting—the only 12-minute stretch where the Knicks shot below 50 percent.
Wade finished with a season-high 35—his best scoring performance since the 2014-15 season—and Jimmy Butler scored 26. But clearly offense wasn’t the problem, as Wade hit five triples to surpass his season total from a year ago (eight).
“The disappointing thing is we got the lead in the second quarter, then let our foot off the gas and let them come out and set the tone again,” Hoiberg said.
The Knicks spread the ball around freely in the second half, with Rose and Brandon Jennings playing in the backcourt for the fourth quarter as dual playmakers. It set up things for Anthony, Porzingis and Noah, with the Bulls offering little resistance.
It was another sign of the Bulls missing the defensive pressure provided by Michael Carter-Williams, as the starters failed to contain the Knicks’ first five.
“We had 15 assists and 13 turnovers, they had 32 assists and five turnovers,” Hoiberg said. “That tells you everything you need to know.”
Rajon Rondo didn’t have the type of affect on the game as he had in the opening Bulls wins, tallying only four points, five rebounds and five assists.
His counterpart got the last laugh when it counted.
Rose’s 11th assist, a cross-court pass to the corner for an Anthony triple, gave the Knicks a 114-104 lead with 50.6 seconds left. Noah greeted Anthony in the air with a mid-air chest bump that had to be none too pleasing for the Bulls faithful but as satisfying as any win Noah and Rose have had in the last two years.