The very first thing Clyde said after the ball was tipped was regarding the peculiarity of the Bulls sweeping the season series with the Cavs, but being 0-2, to that point, against the Knicks.
P&Ter Ewing’s Flat Top was probably being modest when he said the Knicks would be in the ECF if they played the Bulls every night...they’d be in the NBA Finals. The Super Bowl, too. And the World Series. They’d find a way.
It’s a W=L world right now for New York, and yeah, the Knicks beat the decently hot Chicago Bulls 100-91.
The Bulls were playing their best ball of the year at the right time. Without D-Wade in their lineup, dudes like Nikola Mirotic, Rajon Rondo, Bobby Portis, even guys like Denzel Valentine, have significantly stepped up and had ignited a four-game winning streak that largely buoyed their playoff aspirations. The streak included wins against such playoff-bound teams as the Bucks, Hawks and Cavs. In those games, Jimmy Butler averaged 29 points and looked like the real superstar worth making a franchise around.
(That was a low-key plug for Blog a Bull. It’s awesome and you should read it).
Porzingis out vs Bulls— chuck swirsky (@ctsbulls) April 4, 2017
The Bulls, who need all the wins they can get, met the Knicks (who need all the losses they can get) at the right time. The 2016-17 Knicks-Bulls voodoo ran strong, though.
In all honesty, this may be a case of both the Bulls playing down to the competition and New York playing up to it. I don’t think either team is particularly good, though.
Melo played for the first time in two games and looked good. He has a meeting in a few days with the Knicks’ brass—who knows what that’ll be about, could be anything—and has really been thinking about his future. Tonight, he reminded us why he’s a special player and why we’ll miss him if/when he leaves.
New York’s bench was hot, Maurice Ndour recorded a double-double, Hernangomez continues to show promise and that’s just the beginning of what went well for the Knicks tonight.
- Carmelo Anthony: 23 points, 7 rebounds (6 defensive) and 2 assists. That’s a good stat line, especially without KP and especially without a true point guard in the lineup to help him out. As I said above, he reminded us of the incredible playmaking ability he possesses.
He also reminded us of his unique brand of offensive craftiness. I’m not going to go on about it because people on this site, as well as others, have done so ad nauseam. But it’s fun to watch, and I think he looked really into it tonight.
This game didn’t mean much and Melo appears to be ready to move on, so who knows what the future holds. He played very well tonight, though, as he has for most of the season.
- Maurice Ndour: Ugh, we all knew this would happen. The Scenes piece for the game is called “So the Maurice Ndour Game Just Happened...” and that isn’t for nothing. The true Ndour believers have seen this shit coming since the summer of 2015. Maurice dropped 13 points, had 12 boards, an assist, a pair of steal and a block. This was his first NBA start, and if Hornacek did this for tank purposes, it back fired worse than when the Mets traded for Jay Bruce, and Jay Bruce suuuuucks.
Ndour started in place of KP, and rewarded his coaching staff with a performance that may have granted him another start. If he can string together a few games like the one he had tonight, he may just play himself into an NBA contract. Good game, Maurice!
- Nikola Mirotic: Has been on fire lately (again, read Blog a Bull), and continued that tonight with a 21 point, 10 rebound double-double. He may be available this offseason. My opinion is that I wouldn’t want the Knicks to go after him because his price tag will likely be steep, and his ceiling is only so high. Now, I’ll open the floor to you, the reader. What do you think, would you like the Knicks to go after Nikola Mirotic this summer? Discuss.
- Justin Holiday: Right now, he’s got to be my favourite Knick. Some people in Sunday’s comment thread mentioned they’d like to see him get a start. To that, I say no. The way the Knicks have used Holiday is exactly how a team ought to use a bench player....as someone who will come produce from off the bench—not just eat up minutes and pick up fouls. He’s been used correctly, and that’s exactly why, despite his limited role, has been one of the few bright spots of the Knicks season. He scored 12 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and dished three assists. With every passing game, I keep thinking of how upset I’d be if he weren’t to return to New York next year, man.
- The Bench: I mentioned Holiday, but now let’s give the rest of the bench some shine. Mindaugas Kuzminskas got buckets off the bench: 11 points in 19 minutes. Kyle O’Quinn got 12 rebounds, 8 points and blocked 5 shots. 5!!!! Chasson Randle scored 2 points and got 2 rebounds in a mere 6 minutes of action, which is fine as well. Sasha Vujacic was also present inside of Madison Square Garden, The World’s Most Famous Arena, for the duration of this basketball game.
New York’s bench has been pretty good, and is definitely worth revisiting in the offseason. It’s a bench that can definitely be improved, but that already has some pieces worth holding on to. How the front office handles the bench this summer will be something to keep a very close eye on.
The Knicks’ last four wins have come against teams on the fringes of the playoffs. This game was crucial for the tank, sure. But I see Ndour, Willy and the bench’s strong games as positives; they’ll all be of New York’s future, and the future is what’s most important here. Allow yourselves to be happy about this win, I certainly will.
If not, well, Wizards on Thursday night ;)