Someone finally found a way to get under the New York Knicks’ skin. In a nutshell: Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau did it with swarming and physical defense all night long. Other than the blowout the Knicks suffered against the Houston Rockets last month—which didn’t end up being all that troublesome for New York, who simply had an off night—nobody has really stepped up to the Knicks and refused to get run over. That’s not the case any longer as the Chicago Bulls came into Madison Square Garden on Friday night and handed the Knicks a 110-106 loss.
A four point win really does not do justice for the beating that the Knicks took yesterday; after three quarters they were down by 22 points with the game all but over. However, the real action was just getting started. The fourth quarter proved to be most entertaining. To begin with, Carmelo Anthony, clearly more frustrated than we have seen him this season, was ejected after arguing a no-foul call with a referee and was handed his second technical. In defense of his star player, Coach Mike Woodson followed Anthony by getting his second technical and was tossed moments later.
But the ejections did not stop there. Opposing centers Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah were in each other’s’ face within minutes resulting in a minor scuffle. The officials calling the game quickly tossed both players in an effort to keep the game under control. The Knicks went on to score 45 points in the fourth quarter, but could not overcome the deficit imposed on them in the third period.
Versatile player Jimmy Butler was assigned to defend Anthony for a period of the game and was effective at slowing him down. But it wasn’t just Butler, Thibodeau’s superb team defense had all eyes focused on Anthony the entire time that he was on the court. Anthony, despite his ejection, totaled 29 points, but was held to 40% shooting. Getting to the free throw line kept Melo attacking as he made all eight attempts from the charity stripe.
Who would have thought some old fashion hard-nosed defense would bother this New York team? By starting the more perimeter-oriented Anthony at the power forward spot, size and physicality could be what causes problems for this team. What I’m wondering is why teams have failed to pound the ball inside and make Carmelo defend a true power forward. I guess the four-position has dramatically seen its decline over the years and there are few guys left that are able to cause such a problem for the Knicks defensively.
But the Chicago Bulls may possess the Knicks’ Achilles heel: an inside presence and a defensive mindset. The Bulls are now 2-0 against the Knicks this season, and they have done it without Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton. Luol Deng played a great game on Friday scoring 29 points and 13 rebounds. Deng is a player that can pose problems for New York with his ability to score the ball as well as his defensive toughness and length.
Put the Chicago Bulls at the top of the list of teams the Knicks have to deal with this season. I can tell you one thing, and that is New York will not want to see the Bulls in the playoffs before they have to take on the Heat. The last thing they want is to get beat up and worn out in a long series before they take on the defending champions. At this point, getting the first seed in the east will be vital to keep their odds as favorable as possible once the playoffs start. If not, it will be a long and difficult road to reach the Finals.
The Knicks will look to bounce back on Sunday as they take on the surging Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves have won seven of their last 10 games and are beginning to play very well with Rubio back in the lineup. After that, it’s a showdown with the Lakers on Christmas Day in Los Angeles.