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Knicks 96, Bulls 86: “Bullet dodged”

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NOT THE WORST TEAM IN FRANCHISE HISTORY!!!

NBA: New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Knicks. Bulls. A rivalry transcending time. Subtract Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr., Denzel Valentine, Wendell Carter Miranda Jr., Kris Dunn, Chandler Hutchinson, Mario Hezonja, Emmanuel Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina, Lance Thomas, Noah Vonleh, Allonzo Trier, and Kadeem Allen, though, and whaddya got? A reminder that no one — not one of us — can turn back time.

But some wins always feel good, and New York’s 96-86 wire-to-wire win over Chicago hit the trifecta: it spared them the indignity of setting a franchise record for fewest wins in a season, snapped their nine-game road losing streak and pushed the Bulls one defeat away from their first 60-loss season since their first three full post-Jordan campaigns.

From the jump the Knicks’ vibe was footloose and fancy-free.

They hit five of their first six shots, forcing a Bulls’ timeout less than three minutes in; not long after they led 35-15, looking very much like a team that smelled the finish line near the end of the longest season of their lives. Dennis Smith Jr. had himself quite a quarter. If you, like me, have short-term memory issues and have recently found yourself wondering “Is DSJ as intriguing a talent as I seem to remember?”, tonight was a good refresher. He scored 11 in the first, as did Kevin Knox. But the star of the opening frame was the pride of Lexington, Kentucky.

The Knicks would have been the first team in NBA history to win a game by halftime if not for the fact that they threw literally 200 interceptions before intermission.

The Bulls cut the lead down to five. ‘Twas a tale of two first-half halves: the Knick starters outscored the Bulls’ 47-30, but Chicago’s bench doubled up New York’s 20-10.

The highlight of the third quarter was rather ugly. But manure is a helluva fertilizer.

If Robinson’s improvement from the line is any indicator, the threat of a midrange J would be enervating and devastating to opposing bigs. For now, ‘tis but a dream. But what a dream. Speaking of unlikely people doing unlikely things, Henry Ellenson!

The Bulls would have made Dolores O’Riordan proud the way they lingered, but theirs was a relentless, Sisyphean fake comeback. If you’ll permit me to mix afterlife metaphors, a late Damyean Dotson three was Fenris heralding the end times.

Further evidence the apocalypse is a-comin’:

Notes:

  • 12 points, 13 boards, 4 assists and 6 blocks for Kornet. 8, 17 and 3 rejections for Mitchell Robinson. 17 and 10 for Knox. Thanks for your interest in our operation, Kevin Durant, but doesn’t look like there’s any room at the inn.
  • The Knicks hauled in 61 rebounds and outscored the Bulls by 21 from beyond the arc. What do you think of them numbers?
  • Those Bulls jerseys tonight...I def don’t hate ‘em.

The light blue on the shorts...damn!

  • There’s a dude on the Bulls named Cristiano Felicio and he may have the most soccer-player-sounding name in the NBA, assuming the title once held by Manu Ginobili.
  • At one point tonight the Knick lineup featured Ellenson, Isaiah Hicks, John Jenkins, Billy Garrett Jr. and Dotson. That’s some shit you should be able to deduct on your taxes.
  • Mike Breen revealed Chicago’s Walt Lemon Jr. wears #25 because his favorite player growing up was Derrick Rose. There is a generation of players in the league today young enough to feel the same. When I started following the NBA, Rose was just two years old. Follow the Association long enough and you too will come to feel like an Old Man Cactus.
  • While the Knicks were winning on the court, it turns out they’ve won off-the-court, too.
  • Relatedly, wherever there be winners, there are losers, too.
  • Speaking of losers, only one could unite Knick and Heat fans:
  • Speaking of more losers:

I criticize Lance Thomas’ game a lot here. But Simmons’ tweet feels so...beyond sad. I loved his articles back in the day. Every Friday I looked forward to them. Ralph Wiley and Simmons brought me hours of joy over a difficult span of years in life. He represented a reality of fandom that is, or certainly was, lost among all the caricatures and disregard the leagues, the teams, and the sports media all lazily capitalized on. And now he comes across as just another twisted bitter Boston sports guy, with a distorted sense of history and entitlement who thinks reality has been on pause since the 1960s or 1980s and doesn’t process that his team has won fewer titles in the past 35 years than the Houston Rockets and just one more than the Knicks.

He thought his team was on the cusp of a dynasty. Instead, they share a division with a Raptor team that looked ripe for a rebuild and is instead reinvigorated by the addition of Kawhi Leonard and the emergence of Pascal Siakam; a 76er team that added two complementary All-Stars to two young stars who could each one day be MVP; a Net team that’s finally out of purgatory with intriguing young talent, respected coaching and cap space in hand; and the Knicks — the bullied, hated Knicks — a realistic threat to take the same quantum leap Simmons’ C’s did when they added Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

Lance Thomas has never been even a replacement-level NBA player. Bill Simmons transcended the perceived limits of both sports fans and sportswriters. But one is respected. The other? A downward spiral of embitterment. The higher they fly, the farther they fall.

Quoth LegionofBlue14: “Bullet dodged.” Yup. I’m happy this team won’t go down as the worst in franchise history. I didn’t feel the 2015 Knicks “deserved” anything more than they got, but this team does. One game left tonight when they host a Piston team that’s win-and-in for the last playoff spot. See you then.