Top Takeaways from DeMar DeRozan, Bulls vs. Julius Randle, Knicks

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2022

Top Takeaways from DeMar DeRozan, Bulls vs. Julius Randle, Knicks

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The New York Knicks haven't been eliminated from the NBA postseason just yet, but they need help and the margin for error is nonexistent. New York sits four-and-a-half games back from the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 10 seed with six games left to play.

    The reality is that New York probably isn't making the play-in tournament this year. The Knicks, though, can play spoiler the rest of the way, as they did against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night. The Knicks notched a 109-104 victory to drop Chicago to 43-32.

    The Bulls were 38-21 entering All-Star Weekend and contending for the top seed in the East. They're now tied with the Toronto Raptors and one game ahead of the seventh-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. Every loss pushes Chicago closer to the play-in tournament.

    Despite getting strong performances from DeMar DeRozan (37 points, seven assists) and Zach LaVine (27 points in 36 minutes), the Bulls couldn't stop the Knicks' offense when it mattered. With losing a proper playoff spot a real possibility, Tuesday's game against the Washington Wizards is a must-win for Chicago.

    Here are our other takeaways from Monday night's game.

Julius Randle Might Not Fit These Knicks

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Last offseason, Julius Randle agreed to a four-year, $117 million contract extension. On Monday, Randle contributed a mere five points—he did have 13 rebounds—and was benched for most of the fourth quarter.

    As Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News noted, Randle was visibly frustrated. The crowd, meanwhile, welcomed his replacement Obi Toppin.

    "Randle didn't score in the first half on four shots and turned frustrated in the third quarter, directing anger to his familiar target—the officiating crew," Bondy wrote. "As the crowd chanted for Toppin, Randle picked up a technical for complaining to the ref with three minutes remaining in the third."

    To be fair, Randle isn't healthy. He's been dealing with a quad issue that caused him to miss three games. However, his play style, lack of leadership and frequent outbursts against the officials—he now has 12 technicals on the season—are also becoming a problem.

    "The problem with the Knicks? Too much Randle," one NBA scout said last month, per Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post.

    New York has some intriguing potential long-term building blocks in Toppin, Alec Burks and RJ Barrett. Randle, though, might not be a perfect fit for the chemistry and the future of this team.

Depth Becoming a Problem for Chicago

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Chicago's slide since the All-Star break has largely been sparked by injuries. Lonzo Ball has been out since late January after undergoing knee surgery, while Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams have both missed time. Zach LaVine, meanwhile, continues to deal with knee soreness.

    The Bulls' depth has been tested, and too often it hasn't been good enough. That was the case again during Monday's loss. Caruso fouled out, Williams struggled, and New York's bench outscored Chicago's bench 28-11.

    Williams virtually disappeared from the offense, tallying just two rebounds and not attempting a shot in 13 minutes of game time.

    "That's on me," Williams said, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. "Coach can't control my shots."

    Had Chicago gotten more from its reserves, it likely would have come away with a victory. LaVine DeRozan and Nikola Vucavic combined for 80 points and 23 rebounds—and as coach Billy Donovan told Marc J. Spears of Andscape, the team is managing when and how much LaVine plays.

    "I don't know to the extent that it is limiting him," Donovan said, per Spears. "No question it is limiting. I kind of go off of how he is feeling. ... We are just going to have to manage the situation. He just wishes he was feeling better."

    If Chicago hopes to go deep in the playoffs, it needs to figure out how to get more of a spark from the bench. The postseason is an endurance test, and the Bulls' injury woes won't simply disappear.

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