The New York Knicks defeated the Chicago Bulls, 83-78, on Wednesday night to improve to 6-15 on the season, while the Bulls dropped their third game in a row and fell to 8-12 in the loss.
As was the case on Tuesday evening against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bulls were extremely short-handed as they trudged forward without perimeter studs Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng.
Chicago's offense was absolutely putrid in the loss—shooting just 33.3 percent from the field—and the Bulls found themselves in a big hole after they were outscored 31-15 in the second quarter.
However, the Bulls stormed back in the second half thanks to a 33-10 run that completely erased a Knicks lead topped out at 23 points.
And while the Knicks certainly didn't out-execute the Bulls down the stretch, they were able to produce fewer mind-boggling gaffes when the game was on the line.
Bulls crunch time lineup: PG who can't shoot; PG who should be in D-League; C with knee issues; Taj Gibson; Mike Dunleavy, Jr.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) December 12, 2013
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 30 points on 9-of-21 shooting, while Amar'e Stoudemire chipped in 14 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench.
"I don't wanna say it was stressful, but to keep looking up and keep seeing the score get closer and closer... We had to [win]," Anthony said after the game, per the Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring.
Mike Dunleavy compiled a team-high 20 points for the Bulls, but even that came on 7-of-24 shooting.
The Bulls turned the ball over 22 times in the loss.
Let us never speak of this game again.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 12, 2013
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks, Small Forward
Matched up against a Chicago defense missing both Butler and Deng, the league's second-leading scorer figured to have an easier time on offense against the likes of Tony Snell, Dunleavy and Taj Gibson.
That was evident early, as Anthony poured in a team-high eight first-quarter points as he effectively used his size to create mismatches down on the blocks.
Things got dicey late when the Knicks chose to isolate 'Melo on the strong side time and again, but the Knicks were able to overcome those near-disastrous play calls and pull out the win.
All in all, it was a fairly productive night for 'Melo, who led the Knicks with 30 points on 9-of-21 shooting while pulling down 10 rebounds, dishing four assists and racking up three steals.
Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks, Shooting Guard
Iman Shumpert was the only Knicks starter who didn't score first-half points, and he never got an opportunity to do so in the second half as he exited the game after bumping knees with Dunleavy early in the third quarter.
Bruised left knee for Iman Shumpert. He is doubtful to return. #Knicks— NBA New York Knicks (@nyknicks) December 12, 2013
Shumpert would not return after dinging his surgically repaired left knee and totaled just 13 minutes in the win.
J.R. Smith, New York Knicks, Shooting Guard
J.R. Smith's slow shooting start continued as he mustered just seven points on 2-of-8 shooting, but the good news for the Knicks was that he wasn't totally reckless on offense in 29 minutes of work.
After a quiet first half, Smith came out in the mood to attack in the third frame, and he dropped a sweet, sweet dime to Andrea Bargnani in the process. That, along with a transition slam, was his only highlight of note.
Unfortunately, Smith's bone-headed foul on Dunleavy midway through the fourth quarter gave Mike Woodson reason enough to bench the reigning Sixth Man of the Year for a few minutes during crunch time.
Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks, Center
A concerning sign for the Knicks on a night when their offense was otherwise relatively decent was the broken jump shot of Bargnani, who came up empty on three of his first four shots.
Observation: Bargnani does not appear to have any confidence in his jump shot at the moment. Considering that is his one viable skill...— Scott Cacciola (@ScottCacciola) December 12, 2013
Bargnani simply couldn't work himself into a rhythm as the game progressed, which has been a problem for the Knicks center of late. Entering Wednesday night, Bargnani hadn't shot better than 40 percent from the field in three straight games.
He finished with eight points (4-of-10), a meager three rebounds and a block in 27 minutes.
Pablo Prigioni, New York Knicks, Point Guard
Starting in place of the injured Raymond Felton, who was nursing a sore left hamstring, Pablo Prigioni helped the Knicks offense flow with some unselfish passing that was contagious early.
However, as the game wore on, Prigioni was overshadowed by backup Beno Udrih on the offensive end and finished with a line of six points and two dimes in 31 minutes.
Prigs, who also collected four steals, continued to flash a solid three-point stroke, though, with his only two buckets coming on triples.
Prigioni's failed three-on-one fast-break attempt in the third quarter was the most memorable part of his performance.
Kenyon Martin, New York Knicks, Power Forward
The Knicks received a typical workman-like effort from Kenyon Martin against the Bulls, which is a kind way of saying that he didn't profoundly affect the game by stuffing the stat sheet on the offensive end.
Kenyon Martin was clearly hobbling - then blocked 3 shots on that possession and dove for a near-steal. No one like him on roster.— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) December 12, 2013
In 35 minutes, Martin finished with three points, seven rebounds and four emphatic blocks, three of which came during a key momentum-building stretch for the Knicks in the second quarter. He was also a team-best plus-16 in the win. No other player finished better than a plus-six.
Bench, New York Knicks
The big news to come out of this one was that Stoudemire played in the second game of a back-to-back for the first time this season, which was particularly positive news considering he entered Wednesday's contest averaging 14.3 points over his past three games.
What was really positive was the fact that Stoudemire totaled 14 points (7-of-11) and nine rebounds on as the Knicks searched to feed him in the post and at the elbow, as he actually looked quite spry working against Carlos Boozer and Nazr Mohammed.
Amar'e gets a huge ovation as he goes to the bench. He scored 10 points in 12 minutes.— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) December 12, 2013
One other change to the Knicks' second unit was the insertion of Udrih as the backup point man, as he took over the role typically reserved for Prigioni. Udrih showed a confident touch throughout and pieced together a nice performance, dropping eight points and two dimes in 17 minutes.
Tim Hardaway Jr. added seven points off the pine as well.
New York's bench sparked a 19-0 run to open the second quarter, helping give the team a 14-point lead at the half.
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls, Center
Joakim Noah missed Tuesday's matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks due to a thigh injury, but he was back in action for the injury-plagued Bulls in New York.
That said, Noah hardly looked like himself in 37 minutes of work, as he was continually shut down by Stoudemire on the offensive end. When that's happening, it's typically a sign that you could use another day or two of rest.
Noah is getting shut down by Amar'e Stoudemire. Probably shouldn't have played tonight.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) December 12, 2013
Noah's performance was underwhelming on a night when he had a favorable matchup against the likes of Bargnani and Stoudemire, but he simply couldn't capitalize, recording 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks and five turnovers in the loss.
Noah looked like a shell of himself moving up and down the Madison Square Garden floor.
Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls, Power Forward
As is often the case, Carlos Boozer didn't put forth a particularly inspiring defensive performance.
However, as he always does, Boozer found a way to fill up the stat sheet, posting a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Those numbers look good on the surface, but Boozer really didn't provide a spark on either end of the floor in what was arguably the Bulls' worst collective performance of the season to date.
Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls, Power Forward
Taj Gibson was the high man off the Bulls bench with 12 points and seven boards, but that really didn't mean much considering Chicago's reserves compiled a total of 19 points on the night.
His overall intensity was a plus for the Bulls in the second half, and it was on full display as he contributed a monster rejection of Hardaway at the rim that sparked a 14-6 Chicago run to start the fourth quarter.
Tony Snell, Chicago Bulls, Shooting Guard
Tony Snell followed up a solid outing against the Milwaukee Bucks with a dud against the Knicks.
Perhaps it was the drain of losing to the Eastern Conference's worst team the night before, but Snell looked out of it.
Snell scored four points on 1-of-7 shooting and was put to work on the defensive end as he drew a tough assignment in the form of Anthony.
Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls, Point Guard
It's been a lousy three-game stretch for Kirk Hinrich.
Entering the night, Hinrich had shot 1-of-20 over his past two games, and the offensive misery continued in a lackluster showing in a nationally televised setup.
And while Hinrich did finally crack double figures in the scoring column (11 points), he shot a lousy 3-of-11 from the field.
Hinrich's botched possession with under a minute left was simply dumbfounding as well, and it proved to be the cherry on top of arguably the sloppiest game we've seen this year.
Mike Dunleavy, Chicago Bulls, Small Forward
With the Bulls desperately in need of an offensive infusion, Dunleavy's relatively sharp play was much appreciated, as he held the hot hand early in the scoring department. He accounted for nearly half (five) of the Bulls' 11 made field goals over the first 24 minutes of play.
Noted Knicks Killer Mike Dunleavy.— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) December 12, 2013
Thanks to an aggressive attitude, Dunleavy carried Chicago's offense behind 20 points and added eight rebounds and three assists to his final line.
Bench, Chicago Bulls
Simply put, the Bulls' second unit was atrocious and was one of the many reasons they were unable to pull off the winnable contest.
With the bench mob out there to start the second quarter, the Bulls were soundly outscored 19-0 over the period's first six minutes, as Marquis Teague, Gibson and Mohammed opened the game a combined 0-of-7 from the field.
Outside of Gibson, the only points from Chicago's bench came courtesy of Teague, who dropped in seven points on 2-of-7 shooting. Yuck.
The Knicks will have the day off before they get a shot at exacting their revenge on the Boston Celtics for last weekend's 41-point loss. Coincidentally, the Bulls will have retribution on their minds when they travel to Milwaukee for a rematch with the Bucks on Friday after falling to John Henson and Co. by four points at the United Center on Tuesday.