Knicks 120, Bulls 112: Bulls fans are going to get all over rookie coach Tom Thibodeau for not putting Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah back in when the team was on a run and pulled within nine late. Instead, the Bulls two best players sat the entire end of the contest.
That was not where this game was lost. We’ll get to the ending and talk about it, but be clear that the Bulls lost this game a lot earlier.
The Knicks put up 70 on the Bulls and whatever that was Chicago playing when the New York had the ball in the first half. Most teams call it defense, but that’s not what it looked like to me, if you let guys get to the rim and give them open threes I don’t know what you call it when you give up 132.1 points per 100 possessions like the Bulls did in the first half.
Part of it was the tempo — that pace the Knicks played at in the first half is where they need to be all the time. The 13 turnovers by the Bulls in the first half helped fuel that.
Then there was the Knicks outside shooting. Yes, the Bulls didn’t defend the arc well, but for the game New York hit two/third of their deep bombs. It was just one of those nights. Danilo Gallinari was 4-4, Toney Douglas 5-9, Raymond Felton 4-6. The Knicks just had it going.
Chicago was down 18 at the half. That is when they lost the game, not the last five minutes.
But about those minutes. The Bulls really hadn’t gotten closer in the second half. They slowed the tempo down, they scored a little more, but the three ball was falling and that kept the Bulls at arm length.
Then a run came with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah on the bench. The Bulls went on a 10-0 run that cut it to nine. The crowd was up and there was hope with 4:30 left and a time out.
Thibodeau did not put Rose and Noah in at that point. I can live with that decision, with rewarding the hot hands. But they have to be on a short leash now — your stars are your stars for a reason and crunch time is when you use them. It’s not all about the bench guys’ egos.
Maybe he could have put everone back in when Galinari hit another three at 4 minutes, but then Korver answered with a leaning three. Still 9 points down with 3:30 left. Now had to be the time. But no.
Then Wilson Chandler beat Taj Gibson in straight away isolation and got the layup. The Knicks lead was 11 and you were thinking the Bulls maybe can do it with one more spark. Maybe someone like Noah who would have been there to help protect the rim when Chandler came in.
Then Stoudemire blocked a Gibson dunk, which leads to the Knicks in transition and Felton wide open pull up three. And then it’s over. It’s too late.
The timing on these things and decisions are hard, and for all his experience as an assistant this is Thibodeau’s first time in the big chair. He gets some slack. But don’t think his decision cost the team the game.
Thunder 108, Trail Blazers 107 (OT): It wasn’t pretty, but credit Oklahoma City — the Southern California to Portland back-to-back is brutal. Most teams lose the back end of this, most teams fade down the stretch. Oklahoma City came from behind then won in overtime.
Maybe this was a turn-the-corner win for the Thunder. This was a team that got blown out by the Jazz and the Clippers — the Clippers?!? — and then looked bad for much of this game.
There offense seemed to have become isolations or high screens, with everybody is just standing around on the weakside. Not like they were last year at all. The defense was worse. They were giving up easy shots at the rim all night and acted like they had never seen a backdoor cut before. The bigger issue was the lack of consistent effort. One of those effort down times was in the second quarter when Portland put up 35 points hitting 16-22. AT the half Portland’s offensive rating was a ridiculousluy good 126.1.
But good teams find a way to win on bad nights. Oklahoma City is a good team.
Portland fans, it happens. Tough loss to swallow, but it happens. It’s hard to put away a team like the Thunder even when the are playing poorly because Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are exceptional and dynamic.
You can second guess this one all you want in Portland, but there will be games like this again. It happens. Can they learn and move on and improve is the question.