Heading into halftime of Wednesday night’s game at the United Center, the Chicago Bulls trailed the New York Knicks by just two points. Their hopes of winning were still alive and well.
But then came the third quarter.
The Knicks went on a late second-quarter run that gave them the 57-55 halftime lead, and they brought that momentum with them to open the third quarter. At no point in the period did the Knicks trail. They went on a 16-5 run to give the Bulls a 78-62 deficit, and it grew into a 92-73 deficit by the end of the period.
To put it simply, the Bulls couldn’t find anything working in their favor on both ends of the court: They posted their lowest quarter-total of 18 points while allowing the Knicks to score their quarter-best 35 points.
After the leading at the end of the first quarter and keeping it a tight game throughout the first half, the Bulls fell apart. But they weren’t about to keep up such an unadmirable effort up to close the game.
The Bulls started to play more aggressive on both ends of the floor: They buckled down on the defensive end and got good movement on offense. Nikola Mirotic was a big part of the offensive comeback, scoring 20 of his game-high and career-high 35 points in the fourth quarter. But it wasn’t enough.
Kristaps Porzingis came back into the game with the Knicks down 105-93. He scored four more points to bring his point total to 29, so it wasn’t like he dominated the last five minutes of the game to stop the Bulls like he had previously — though he certainly made things tougher for the Bulls. Rather, the Bulls got sloppy with the ball and forced unnecessary 3-pointers.
Mirotic’s bench contributions were just one part of a good Bulls bench performance, though.
Within the last minute of the quarter, Doug McDermott hit a 3-pointer and a layup, and Aaron Brooks added a three of his own to close out the quarter with an 8-0 run for the 30-23 Bulls lead. The bench couldn’t capitalize on that momentum heading into the second quarter, but they managed to hold off the Knicks for a while.
At the 2:28 mark of the second, Kristaps Porzingis made a 3-pointer to give his team the 50-48 lead, the Knicks’ first lead of the quarter. Carmelo Anthony followed that with a right-wing jumper of his own. The two New York forwards combined for 27 of the Knicks’ 57 first-half points, leading their team to the 57-55 halftime lead that only grew from there.
The Bulls, now 36-34, will have a chance to avenge this loss Thursday night when they face the Knicks again, but at Madison Square Garden instead.
Ashley is the owner/editor of The Bulls Charge. Follow her on Twitter at @wijangco12.