On Dec. 18, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported the Knicks were considering waiving Nate Robinson. That same day, Butler scored six points to raise his season scoring average.
Tonight, Robinson and Butler led the hard-playing, hard-charging, hard-celebrating Bulls to a 118-111 overtime win over the Knicks, whose 13-game win streak ended the same place the Heat’s 27-game win streak did: Chicago. The Bulls (43-35) now have sole possession of the No. 5 seed over the Hawks (43-36) thanks to their one-time unlikely heroes.
Robinson scored 35 points in 33 minutes, his highest-scoring game since he played for the Knicks three years ago. His outside shot was impressive. His drives to the basket were fruitful. And his swagger was out of this world:
Butler played all 48 minutes against the Raptors on Tuesday, and then he played even more tonight (50 minutes). He finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds and added three steals and three blocks in excellent of Carmelo Anthony.
Melo scored more than 35 points for the sixth straight game, but he needed 34 shots, more than he’s taken in any other game during the streak. The problem wasn’t just efficiency for the Knicks. It was also fatigue.
They took 104 shots tonight, their most since Mike Mike D’Antoni’s first season, and by the time regulation ended, they seemed done.
After the Knicks turned the ball over to begin overtime, they missed from 21, 26, 26, 8 and 26 feet. Between, they shot twice near the hoop, but those attempts were as likely to end in blocks as baskets. It looked like the Bulls had worn down the Knicks will to find good shots.
The narrative says the Bulls are now the streak stoppers, and they did end the Heat’s win streak. But the Clippers’ 17-game and Nuggets’ 15-game streaks were long than the Knicks’ this season, and neither was snapped by Chicago. The real story is that, even in games the opponent wants to win badly, the Bulls play harder.
That won’t matter quite as much when the playoffs begin and every team plays closer to 100 percent intensity, but on two highly watched nights this season, Chicago was the perfect foil to two of the NBA’s hottest teams.