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Bulls 109, Knicks 103: Scenes from a hardscrabble L

I hate the Bulls, man.

New York Knicks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls were motivated to pay the New York Knicks back for handing them their first loss of the season a few weeks ago. Mission accomplished after a back-and-forth 108-101 win that denied the Knicks their first winning streak in three weeks.

With All-Star center Nikola Vučević still unavailable due to COVID protocol, the Bulls are playing small and looking to get out and run. Early on Lonzo Ball found Zach LaVine ahead on the break.

The home team jumped out to a 20-8 lead, similar to some of the slow starts the Knicks have endured of late. In a welcome change from that recent past, Julius Randle looked more like 2021 JR than the 2020 version, looking for the looks he excelled at last year: baseline turnarounds, post & fakes leading to lay-ups, etc. He was intent on taking more shots inside the arc than outside it, and he wasn’t looking to pass first all the time. That’s good, ‘cuz it freed him up for stuff like this.

Obi Toppin was another bright spot in this one, on both ends.

For the first half, Chicago stayed in front. The Knicks were at their best keeping the Bulls in the halfcourt; when they got out and ran, this kinda thing happened.

As Randle goes, so do the Knicks. He was patient and focused on taking more 2s than he had been; in the first half New York took twice as many 2s as 3s.

In the second half we saw some things from Randle I don’t think I’ve ever seen from him.

Caesar channeled his inner Xavier McDaniel/Larry Johnson on this and-one over Ball.

Randle and Kemba Walker had one of their best stretches together this season; after a scoreless first half, Smiles had seven in the third and didn’t have to disconnect Randle to get his own juice flowing. They were simpatico for a swell spell.

One problem: no Knick besides Randle made more than four baskets; only Immanuel Quickley had more than three. So Alec Burks ending a wild possession with an even wilder and-one after Obi & Noel kept the ball alive a bunch was cool, but wasn’t sustained. That’s why the comeback wasn’t sustainable.

The game was there to be had late, though. When Derrick Rose made this lefty whip pass to Obi for 3, you felt like it could happen.

And then, Coby White remembered what being Coby White means: killing the Knicks late.

Close but no cigar. Lee Escobedo has the recap on the griddle. See ya then.