Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks

Bulls beat the Knicks for the third time this season

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The Knicks have shown that they’ve had no trouble dealing with the Miami Heat this season, the defending champions who sit at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

As for defense-first teams like the Bulls and the Celtics however, that’s where New York tends to struggle.

Playing Chicago for the third time this season and for the second time in the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden, the Knicks were essentially dead on arrival.

Whether it’s in their heads at this point that they can’t generate offense against the Bulls or whether it was just an off night, Chicago rolled from the very start, and withstood a 41-point fourth quarter from New York on the way to a 108-101 victory, their third straight over the Knicks this season.

The Bulls, not exactly known for their scoring ability ranking just 23rd in the league in offensive efficiency, built a 21-point halftime lead on the strength of better than 57 percent shooting, while holding the Knicks under 30 percent from the field through the first two quarters.

Carmelo Anthony was back from a one-game suspension, but was largely frustrated while finishing with 39 points on 14-of-32 shooting. Luol Deng for the Bulls, meanwhile, piled up points for the second straight game against the Knicks, and finished with 33 points on 13-of-18 shooting.

Anthony isn’t the one to blame for this loss, however — it was a collective effort from the entire Knicks team to fall behind so quickly to a Bulls squad that has simply had its number this season.

Jason Kidd started and played 20 minutes, but missed all six of his shot attempts and not only didn’t manage to score, but didn’t hand out a single assist. The Knicks miss Raymond Felton creating at the point guard position, and their depth was tested without Marcus Camby, who will miss the next 2-4 weeks with a foot injury.

Chicago manages to roll along on the strength of its defense, while the Knicks seem to suffer at any hint of a bit of a speed bump. New York has real reasons to be concerned with its playoff chances as the season progresses, while the Bulls can take comfort in the fact that they have enough to beat the top teams in the conference right now, even as they await the return of their MVP point guard, Derrick Rose.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.