Bulls

Do Bulls have Knicks' number?

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Do Bulls have Knicks' number?

NEW YORK -- Sometimes in the world of sports, one team just has anothers number and while it remains to be seen if thats the case, the Knicks cant chalk up their 110-106 loss to simply having an off night or missing the star power of Carmelo Anthony, as they could have attributed their previous loss at the United Center earlier this month. While Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau can nitpick all he wants about the furious, ultimately failed comeback by the home team that made a blowout defeat appear to be a close game, beating the top team in the East and frustrating them to the extent that their head coach, leading scorer and defensive anchor were all ejected in the eyes of folks who dont see the Derrick Rose-less squad on a regular basis, this is now a legitimate team.

Well, you get a 25-point lead on the road against a team like this, youre doing a lot of good things. Im disappointed with our poise and discipline in the fourth quarter, starting with me, fourth-quarter technical. So, we gave up 45 points and thats not good. Its not the way we want to close the game, the perfectionist coach evaluated. The problem is, youve got to do it for 48. When youre playing a team that shoots the three the way they shoot the three, if you let your guard down at all, they can make up ground very quickly on you and there were a lot of touch fouls, the free throws, the clock stopped, theyre scoring. We did a lot of things to put them back in position to have a shot, so thats something we have to clean up.

Theyre really good and they keep a lot of pressure on you at all times. So, they missed some shots early that they normally make. We made some. We got off to a good start offensively and that sort of set the tone. I thought our defense and our rebounding was very good in the first half. The third quarter, I thought we were really good and you have to play against them. A 10-point lead, 15-point lead, youre not safe against this team, he continued. That was the nature of the game, so theyre down people and theyre scrambling, but the thing that always gives them a chance is their ability to shoot the three. So, they have you spread out pretty good and if you make a mistake, now youre giving them the three and if youre hugging the line too much, then Feltons penetrating to the hole. Forty-five points is an awful lot of points in a quarter, so Im very concerned about that, but the important thing is I think youve got to find different ways to win. I was pleased with that. This is a hard building to play in. We came in and did what we had to, to get a win, which is what we want.

Thibodeau can say what he wants, but at least defensively with the exception of that bizarre final stanza, in which the Knicks valiantly fought back without Anthony and sixth-man extraordinaire J.R. Smith, who scored 55 of the teams 74 points when they were both disqualified for various reasons, not to mention Tyson Chandler, who was ejected after getting tangled up with Bulls counterpart Joakim Noah he seems to have his former employer figured out. By taking away the deep ball, the weapon that has taken the Knicks to the top of the East, theyve now beaten their historic rivals with and without Anthony in the lineup.

Things were definitely escalating, but I dont think theyre used to being down that much, too. If they were up 20 points, I dont think they would have been that frustrated. Well be playing this team a lot and theyre a very good team, they play very hard and Im just happy we won right now, Noah said. It doesnt say anything. It just says: Bulls, W. Knickerbockers, L.

We feel like we still have our best basketball ahead of us and thats exciting. We feel like we can still get a lot better and to come out, and get a win like this in the Garden, to me, you dont know what it means to me. Im playing in front of my family and my friends. I just felt really blessed to be able to play, he continued, before responding, Nah, not really, when asked if the rivalry between the two big-market teams is beginning to resemble the Bulls-Knicks battles of his adolescence.

Teammate Taj Gibson, another New Yorker, replied otherwise when posed with the same question: It is like the old Bulls-Knicks rivalry. Ever since I got here, I feel like that. Every time we play here, its down to the wire, its always close games and I was just pissed because I couldnt really get into the game and experience what I normally experience, but it was a great game. We defended well, this was a big win for us, especially coming into a tough environment. This crowd understands basketball from every single aspect of the game and this is the Mecca, this is basketball, this is where Im from, so Im just happy we could get the win.

The 29-point, 13-rebound effort of Luol Deng was almost overshadowed by the sideshow of all of the technical fouls, ejections, the Noah-Chandler fracas and even his own left-shoulder injury, but it cant be ignored. Matched up with Anthony, considered one of the elite players at their shared position, Deng came up with a huge performance on both ends.

It was tough. It felt like it was the longest game ever, and there were a lot of distractions. I'm just happy we kept the lead. I know we had a big lead and let it slip, but at the end of the day we won. And that's really what matters, he told CSNChicago.com on the Madison Square Garden floor immediately after the game. I was excited. Melo's such a tough matchup. I see a lot of great players, and I love it. Some days they get the best of me, and some days I do well. I'm happy we got a team that can compete with all these teams, and it gives us a chance to go out there and compete with the best.

Later, in the visitors locker room, he added: We knew we had to come in here and be ready. Theyre a tough team, theyre playing the best in the East right now. Theyve got Melo, whos been playing really well and theyre really confident at home, and we just really had to stay focused the whole game, even when the game got out of hand. When they came back, we did a good enough job to keep the lead.

At the end of the day, thats all that matters. Mentally, this game reinforced to the Bulls what theyre capable of and for the Knicks, whose fans even got caught up in the drama, as spectators were ejected from the arena, at the minimum, they know which team theyd like to avoid in the first round of the playoffs.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reaction to Zach LaVine's comments after 10th straight loss

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NBC Sports Chicago

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reaction to Zach LaVine's comments after 10th straight loss

Matt Peck, David Watson and John Sabine feel the Heat after Dwyane Wade and Co. hand the Bulls their 10th straight defeat. Plus, they react to LaVine's comments on the state of the Bulls (1:30), how they feel about stars speaking out (4:55) and Matt wants a new coach next season (6:48).
How can the Bulls attract free agents to this losing culture to improve on their young core (11:35)? Plus, why does it feel like the Bulls get more criticism than the Knicks (16:02)?

The big story was D-Wade's farewell game at the United Center. Watson explains why he's pro-Wade (18:30). Peck provides the rebuttal (19:29). Finally, Watson notes that Markkanen may be struggling to find chemistry with Kris Dunn (25:10).

Don't forget, you can watch Bulls Outsiders after Bulls Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago following every game. You can also stream the show on Facebook Live and interact with Matt, John and David.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Kris Dunn's midrange game has disappeared, and that's spelled disaster for his overall game

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USA TODAY

Kris Dunn's midrange game has disappeared, and that's spelled disaster for his overall game

No player was happier to return home from the Bulls' 0-5 West Coast road trip than Kris Dunn.

Dunn began the trip with a nice 15-point, seven-assist performance in Portland but was a disaster in the remaining four games, averaging 7.0 points on 31.4 percent shooting and 5.0 assists.

But his struggles continued on Wednesday night against a tough Miami Heat defense. Dunn started strong but disappeared after the first quarter, finishing with 6 points on 3 of 14 shooting and 5 assists in 33 minutes. The scoring output marked the fourth time in the last five games he's scored 6 points and the shooting was his worst of the year.

"Definitely going through it," Dunn said after the game. "It's part of the NBA. It's on me to find a way to get out of it. I feel like I'm getting to my spots and it's just not knocking down right now."

Dunn is getting to his spots, but that also might be part of the problem. In his first 13 games back from a sprained MCL he averaged 14.2 points on 50 percent shooting. That included 54 percent shooting on shots 8 to 16 feet away, per NBA.com. That number led the Bulls and was actually fourth in the NBA among players attempting at least 2 of those shots per game (Gay, Clarkson, McConnell were ahead of him) and ahead of players like Kyrie Irving (51.8%), Donovan Mitchell (50%) and Derrick Rose (49%).

But since that West Coast trip began Dunn has hit a wall on those shots. He's made just 30 percent of those attempts, 56th best among those with 2 or more attempts per game. It's only a five-game sample size, compared to 13 when that shot was falling, but the larger issue is that Dunn relies so heavily on them.

Among qualified full-time starting point guards, Dunn's 1.4 3-point attempts per game are second fewest. Only Ben Simmons, who hasn't attempted a 3-pointer this year, is behind Dunn.

And among those same point guards, Dunn's 1.7 free throw attempts per game are fourth fewest. Only De'Anthony Melton, Lonzo Ball and Bryn Forbes have attempted fewer per game than Dunn.

His midrange field goal percentage was eventually going to regress. He's always looked comfortable on those floaters and stepback 12-to-15 footers, but even last year he made just 39.3 percent of those 8 to 16 foot shots. That 54 percent clip was unsustainable, and when Dunn doesn't have that going he really isn't a threat to score anywhere else on the floor.

He's averaging a team-best 13.8 drives per game, per NBA.com, which is also 14th in the NBA and puts him in the same company as players like Jeff Teague and Chris Paul. He's ahead of players such as Mike Conley, De'Aaron Fox and Damian Lillard, so aggressiveness hasn't been the issue.

Dunn's midrange shot has abandoned him, and yet he hasn't been to the free throw line in his last 81 game minutes spanning two-plus games. His last attempts came with 3 minutes left in the second quarter against the Lakers. He's also attempted just four 3-pointers (going 1-for-4) in his last 170 minutes spanning five games; in Saturday night's loss Heat guard Tyler Johnson attempted four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter (and made three of them).

He quite simply isn't a versatile scoring threat, and his one trick has disappeared. This wouldn't be as big an issue if Dunn were an exceptional passer, facilitating the offense and finding open shooters. And while Dunn certainly has had some nice passing nights - and he's inside the top 20 in assists per game despite playing in an offense without a ton of shooters -  it hasn't been nearly enough to overcome his scoring woes.

Life in today's NBA means getting scoring from the point guard position, and Dunn is failing in that regard. Perhaps his midrange touch will find itself, but the more likely scenario is Dunn needing to be more aggressive on all those drives he's taking, getting to the free throw line more and initiating some of the action on his own.

It's unlikely he'll ever become a reliable source of 3-point shooting - he's down to 32.1 percent from deep this season, same as last - but even some improvement in that area will go a long way.

"He knows he can play better. He wants to play better," Jim Boylen said after Saturday's loss. "He takes ownership of his play. That’s one thing I like about him. We gotta keep supporting him, we gotta keep coaching him. That’s what this is all about."