For Part One (Trail Blazers), click here.
For Part Two (Clippers), click here.
For Part Three (Rockets), click here.
Knick butcher for the world,
Fool maker, stacker of defeats
Since the Carmelo Anthony trade, the Knicks have played the Chicago Bulls nine times, with one lonely win to show for it. The 'Bockers haven't beaten Chicago in regulation since Dec. 25, 2010 - PRAISE SANTA! - when the now-retired Kurt Thomas still played...for the Bulls.
After being thoroughly manhandled by a powerhouse Bulls team in three out of four 2011-12 match-ups, last year's Knicks squad probably looked forward to an easier time against the Derrick Rose-less Bulls in 2012-13.
Dec. 8, 2012, @New York: Bulls 93, Knicks 85
The Melo-less Knicks stayed close through three quarters, but the Bulls pulled away in the fourth. Dumb fact: James White (+10 in 12:24) had the highest +/- of any Knick - keep that in mind next time you try to make sense of single-game plus/minus numbers.
Dec. 21, 2012, @Chicago: Bulls 110, Knicks 106
Before you get all excited about the close final score, keep in mind the Knicks scored 45 points in the fourth quarter - most of which came after Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Mike Woodson were ejected - to make this outcome look respectable. Unsurprising fact: through the first two games of this series, Ronnie Brewer shot 0-for-9 from the field.
Jan. 11, 2013, @New York: Bulls 108, Knicks 101
New year, same old "Knicks drop more than 40 points in garbage time to make the final score look closer than it was" result...this time it was 41 points. The Knicks were down 21 points at halftime, and the Bulls as a team shot .574 from the field (.455 from beyond the arc). Boy, if this team could play Chicago as tough throughout as they do in garbage time, they would score 170 points and win every game!
April 11, 2013, @Chicago: Bulls 118, Knicks 111 (OT)
The Knicks game into the game riding a 13-game winning streak...and still, NOPE! Unsurprising fact: through the third and fourth game of this series, Jason Kidd shot 0-for-10 from the field - essentially, he became Ronnie Brewer.
What went wrong:
In the absence of Rose, pretty much every Bull raised his game against New York. The main instigators on offense were Luol Deng (4 G, 25.0 PPG - most vs. any opponent) and Marco Belinelli (4 G, 15.8 PPG - most vs. any Eastern Conference opponent). As you might expect, last year's Bulls team leaned heavily on defense - 23rd in ORtg, 6th in DRtg - so allowing 40 points to the likes of Deng and Belinelli wasn't exactly prudent. It should come as no surprise then that the Bulls' averaged 111.2 points per 100 possessions, nearly 8 points more efficient than their season average. To put that 111.2 ORtg into perspective, over a full year that would have ranked third in the NBA, just slightly ahead of...the New York Knicks! So, offensively-speaking, when the Bulls played the Knicks, they became a better version of the Knicks themselves.
And defensively-speaking...well, they were still the Bulls, they were still coached by Tom Thibodeau, and they still employed Joakim Noah. Noah may lack some of the subtler aspects of reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol's game, but he is a marvelous defender in his own right, thanks in part to a relentless motor and what I like to call the "irritability factor." The dude just knows how to get under your skin. And he is particularly effective against the Knicks, who employ a host of players who are susceptible to the irritability factor. Three of their best players - Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler - are notoriously thin-skinned, and all three of them were sent to the showers early in the second game against Chicago (J.R. for six early fouls, Melo and Tyson for technicals). The Knicks managed to get through the last two games without any ejections, so perhaps they're making progress...maybe?
What to expect next season:
Rest of the league: "Oh no, the Bulls will have Derrick Rose next season!"
The Knicks: "Oh no, the Bulls will have Mike Dunleavy next season!"
Sure, Rose is the (far) superior player, but the Knicks could lose to the Bulls just as easily with him out of the lineup as they could when he was winning MVPs. But Dunleavy, the ultimate Knick-killer, suiting up for the Bulls? That's just not fair!
I can picture Dunleavy sitting in his underground lair, gripping a brandy glass between his bony fingers as he watches a video montage of himself thrashing the Knicks:
Dunleavy: "The devil take these confounded Knickerbockers! It has been too long since the sire of Dunleavy hast supped the sweet tears of the defeated New Yorkers! I must leave this wearisome Milwaukee, and ally myself with a squadron of fellows who share my passion for Knick annihilation!
The phone rings: "Good evening, Lord Dunleavy. This is Chicago Bulls GM Gar Forman. I've heard whispers of your impending free agency, and I would like to propose an alliance. Would you be interested?
Dunleavy: "Would I....MWAHAHAHAHAHA!"
The Knicks won't have to wait for long for their first crack at Chicago - they'll travel to the United Center on Halloween night to take on the Windy City Dunleavies in their first road test of the season. So remember, kids: if you come trick-or-treating to my house and hear a series of blood-curdling screams, don't even bother ringing the bell. It's not a haunted house, and I won't be in the mood to give out candy.