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Knicks 113, Bulls 105: “Nice JV high school basketball team the Bulls are trotting out against us.”

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Quality win against a not-so-quality opponent

NBA: Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

If your childhood was anything like mine, you probably used to go to bowling birthday parties at the local alley in your grade school years.

I always had a nice time at bowling parties — a lot less falling on my knees than roller rink parties, so that was always a plus. At these parties when you’re like 5, 6, 7 years old, there’s always some lanes that get fitted with “bumpers” that make it nearly impossible to throw gutter balls. If last night’s game was bowling, the lineup the Bulls threw out there was the bumpers, and our young Knicks were bowling a perfect game until about the sixth frame.

Of course, at a certain point our little pups will need to grow up and lose the bumpers, but for now, it was just fun to watch them have a nice time in a relatively easy 113-105 win.

The Knicks came out blazing, scoring 37 points in the first quarter and taking a 18-point lead over the Bulls after the first break. Kevin Knox was the star of the first, shooting 4-7 for 11 points to open things up. He showcased more of the early aggression getting to the rim that he’s made his calling card over the last couple games:

The rest of the game would be the Luke Kornet and Damyean Dotson show on offense, as those two ended with 42 combined points on 14-19 shooting. Pepper in some amazing play as per usual from birthday boy Mitchell Robinson, and the Knicks carried a 17-point lead into halftime after leading by as much as 28 in the second frame.

Of course, even with bumper bowling, you can throw some gutter balls if you try hard enough. The Bulls scratched and clawed their way back during the third and fourth quarters, getting as close as five points when Robinson had to take a few minutes to ice his foot (apparently nothing serious, because he came back). But Mitch and the Knicks managed to put the game away late, which a team of former lotto picks probably should do against a team of undrafted dudes.

This win certainly wasn’t the thriller that the last Knicks win against the Lakers was, but it showed progress, and that’s about all we can ask for at this late juncture of a lost season.

Notes:

— Quite a way for Mitchell Robinson to celebrate his 21st birthday. Here’s a preachy lesson for the kids: Don’t take shots, block shots!

Mitch finished with 14 points of 4-4 shooting (6-8 from the free throw line!), 10 rebounds, three blocks and a career-high four assists. But arguably his two most impressive moments didn’t count on the stat sheet:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: As Mitch’s exploits become more and more routine, let’s make it a point to never take him for granted. This dude is a highlight machine.

— Separate note: my favorite Mitch play in this one wasn’t even a dunk or a block. It was a crafty lefty finish in traffic:

If Mitch never improves on anything, he’ll still be an impact starter in this league. But if he can make finishes like that part of his routine, or, heaven forbid, add a jumper to his repertoire? Forget about it.

— After shooting 3-26 from 3 over the previous four games, Damyean Dotson finally got his groove back and canned his first six looks from deep in this one. He’d end up with 18 points on 6-8 shooting, but maybe more importantly, he dished six assists. When your starting point guard ends up with four assists, three turnovers and a -10 plus/minus during what could have been a blowout win, getting some ball movement from an unexpected source certainly helps.

What are the chances that, in the video above, Mudiay would’ve just ignored Robinson under the hoop and gone for the contested reverse instead? I’d say pretty high.

Luke Kornet continued his revival, too, improving on his first-half explosion last game by playing a complete game this time out. He also set a new career high, finally eclipsing the 23-point mark he had set a few times to score 24. He also had a very un-Luke-Kornet poster dunk, putting an exclamation point on a career night for him:

— Also, the Kornet family is so cute on Twitter, particularly Momma Kornet:

— I’m either crazy or extremely forgetful, but the MSG broadcast rehashed a 22-year-old April Fools’ Day prank that I somehow was not aware of — Clyde faking a return to the team at 52 years old:

I guess I was the fool yesterday! Not for having believed it, but for being so unaware of something that the Knicks apparently bring up almost every year.

Emmanuel Mudiay really sucks. There’s not much more to it than that. If he’s not scoring efficiently, he’s a huge minus, because most of the time his first, second and third thought with the ball in his hands is to try to get his own shot.

Plus/minus is obviously a flawed stat in many ways, but Mudiay finished with a -10 in 36 minutes and Kadeem Allen was a +20 in nine minutes before he had to exit with a concussion.

Mudiay: 17 points on 7-21 shooting, four assists, three turnovers

Allen: Seven points on 1-2 shooting, five assists, one turnover

I think plus/minus got it right tonight.

— In the heartwarming department, Mitchell Robinson and DeAndre Jordan had some fun on the bench right as Mitch was getting ready to come back from his mystery foot ailment in the third quarter:

Apologies if you listen to Locked On Knicks and already heard this story, but this one touched me in particular because it reminded me a lot of my dad. Usually in the car, where I was strapped into my seatbelt and unable to resist, my dad would do that exact same thing to my knee when I was a kid. And I was extremely ticklish and would freak out, flailing all over the place. Then, of course, I’d try to do it back to him, and it would do absolutely nothing.

It’s fun to see how tight Mitch and Jordan have gotten in such a short time together.

— Quick shout-out to Robin Lopez, as A) it was also his birthday and B) he was the one guy on the Bulls that truly looked like an NBA player tonight. The former Knick had 29 points on 12-18 shooting, and he was the only guy to really make Mitch look like a fool in this one.

Defending savvy dudes like Lopez is going to be the next step in Mitch’s development. Once he gets those guys figured out, it’s all over for the league.

So said commenter jacoop: “Nice JV high school basketball team the Bulls are trotting out against us.” Yeah, it might not have been the best competition. But I’ll take the Knicks looking like a dominant team where I can.