It really wasn’t much along the lines of revenge. It really wasn’t much of a statement either.
What happened when the Bulls beat the Knicks 98-86 Tuesday night is that the better team won. Emphasis on team. And the fact the Bulls did it without Derrick Rose (out with an ankle injury) should scare Knicks fans, because these teams could well meet in the first round.
Yes, the Knicks and Bulls split a home-and-home and some Knicks fans may try to take solace in that. But for the Knicks to win the first game it took a rusty game from Derrick Rose (although Iman Shumpert deserves some credit for his defense), four key late missed free throws by Rose and Luol Deng, some monster tip-outs by Tyson Chandler and an epic game from Carmelo Anthony — and the Knicks still needed overtime. At home.
That’s not going to happen four times in seven games. Even if they get Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin back. The Bulls are the better squad.
Like Sunday, on Tuesday Anthony may have been the best player on the floor — he had 29 points on 19 shots, he got to the line, he played solid defense and he also dished out five assists.
But it was ‘Melo against the world — Knicks not named Anthony shot 37 percent on the night. They got swarmed by the Bulls defense.
On the other side Richard Hamilton found his groove moving off the ball and finding seams, scoring 18 of his 20 in the third quarter to help Chicago solidify their lead. If the Bulls are going to make a deep playoffs run, they need this Rip Hamilton to show up nightly.
Then in the fourth it was the Kyle Korver show as he had 11 points in the final frame. That was enough offense for the Bulls defense.
In both games, the Bulls dominated the paint and the boards. Chicago grabbed the offensive rebound on 35.5 percent of their missed shots and that led to 25 second chance points. If the Knicks are to stand a chance in a potential playoff matchup with the Bulls that has to change — Tyson Chandler had 15 boards but he needs help.
Both of these teams now have key showdown games ahead. For the Knicks it’s the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday — New York is currently one game ahead of them for the last playoff spot in the East. If the Bucks win not only do they tie the Knicks the Bucks will win the season series and have the tiebreaker.
For the Bulls, it’s the Heat on Thursday night in a likely Eastern Conference Finals showdown.