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.

Robin Lopez helpfully stopped to tie Jae Crowder’s shoe (VIDEO)

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Why did Robin Lopez tie Jae Crowder‘s shoe during Sunday’s Game 4 between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls? We may never know. Perhaps he was just helping the Celtics forward after he tossed him to the ground? Or maybe he’s just doing weird Robin Lopez things?

In any case, Lopez helpfully stopped to tie Crowder’s shoe after it came off during a battle down low early in the third quarter at United Center.

Here’s how it went down.

Via Twitter:

I still have no idea.

Noticeably frustrated, Russell Westbrook gets prickly with reporter after loss to Rockets (VIDEO)

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The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets played an ugly game down the stretch on Sunday. The Rockets employed a hack-a-Andre Roberson strategy, while the Thunder played sloppy and often poorly with Russell Westbrook out of the game.

The latter was the subject in question when Oklahoman reporter Berry Tramel spoke with Westbrook and Steven Adams at a postgame press conference following the Game 4 loss, 113-109.

Tramel’s question — whether the Rockets got a boost when Westbrook was off the floor — was directed at Adams, but the Thunder MVP candidate couldn’t let it go.

Snapping at Tramel, Westbrook told him not to split them up.

Via Twitter:

Tramel’s question is legitimate, and one of the overarching themes of this series thus far. Westbrook’s response is pretty far off the mark, but it did tell the story of how he’s feeling going away from Chesapeake Arena down 3-1.

Game 5 is on Tuesday in Houston.

Kevin Love throws full court pass to LeBron James for sweet and-1 bucket (VIDEO)

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Kevin Love and LeBron James were locked in an epic battle with the Indiana Pacers during the first half of Sunday’s Game 4 playoff matchup. Part of that matchup included yet another long, full court pass between the Cleveland Cavaliers duo.

Love, as you might guess, was the passer and LeBron was again the receiver.

The play came in the final minute of the second quarter, with Love nabbing a rebound from the right block and LeBron jetting down the floor.

Love’s pass was perfectly placed, and Paul George just didn’t have the strength to keep him from getting the and-1.

Cleveland completed the series sweep on Indiana with the win, 106-102.

Nene’s 28 lead Rockets past Thunder for 3-1 series lead

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Nene scored 28 points on perfect shooting from the field, and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109 on Sunday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Nene made all 12 of his shots and had 10 rebounds. He helped the Rockets overcome an off night by James Harden, who finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting.

Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each scored 18 points for the Rockets. Trevor Ariza had 14.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Houston.

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by halftime and finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. The Thunder said Westbrook joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to claim three consecutive playoff triple-doubles.

Steven Adams scored 18 points and Victor Oladipo added 15 for the Thunder.

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at the break. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter, and the Thunder led 58-54 at intermission. Meanwhile, Harden made just 2 of 9 shots and scored just six points in the first half.

The Thunder opened the second half with a 10-2 run, but Houston closed to 77-73 at the end of the third quarter.

Adams made the first of two free throws with 21.7 seconds remaining to cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to four. He rebounded his missed second free throw and found Westbrook for a 3-pointer that cut Houston’s lead to one point. But the Thunder lost track of Nene on the other end, and he converted a three-point play. Gordon’s two free throws with 6.2 seconds made it a four-point game.

TIP-INS

Rockets: G Patrick Beverley was fined $25,000 by the NBA for confronting a fan after Game 3. The league announced the fine about two hours before Game 4 tipped off.

Thunder: Westbrook had just one turnover in the first half. … Adams went 6 for 6 from the field in the first half. … Westbrook missed all six of his shots in the third quarter.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.