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Bulls 110, Knicks 102: “Markkanen can shoot”

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I know it. You know it. And yet...

NBA: New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Did you know in 1993 Manute Bol hit six 3s in a half?

You can tell from the Phoenix fans’ reactions how amazing this event was, for several reasons:

  • 1993 was not a time when players took 3s. That postseason, the Knicks played 15 games. In only one did they or their opponent make more than six 3s as a team (Chicago, Game 4). In many games, the teams didn’t even combine for six.
  • Bigs especially did not launch from behind the arc back then. Patrick Ewing was the premiere jump-shooting center of his time. He never made more than six 3s in a season. His career total was 19. But it’s not how many you make. It’s when you make them.
  • Even among bigs, Bol was no bombardier. Over his 11-year career, he made more than one 3 in a season just thrice: twice with the Don Nelson/Run TMC Warriors, a team so Dionysian with its “Everybody shoots! As much as they want!” offensive philosophy even the ballboys scored 10 a night, and...the ‘93 Sixers, when Bol hit 10 3s. Six of them in one half in Phoenix.

Let’s contrast Bol to, oh, I don’t know...a player who came into last night with these career numbers from deep.

Now that’s someone you’d wanna pay attention to. But the Knicks didn’t, or couldn’t, so on a night when the teams scored the same number of points via 2s (62) and the 20 players between them who weren’t born in Vantaa shot 22% from deep, the one who was nailed half his dozen dares en route to a 30-point serving. In a battle between two teams losing lots of late, Lauri Markkanen, literally and figuratively, was the biggest reason New York’s now dropped five of six. If you don’t wanna read the whole recap, these two clips sum the game up in less than 20 seconds.

(The “Sriracha!” in that clip kills me every time.)

All I know about the first quarter is Mitchell Robinson had to leave with two fouls midway through it. My Spectrum service continues to suck, with tonight’s glitch du jour the recording somehow skipping nine minutes of game action and as an added bonus not being able to rewind. At least when the recording decided to resume the picture quality no longer looked like Pitfall. I could actually see faces. And the ball.

The score stayed close as both teams struggled from deep. Markkanen, who’d scored a couple easy baskets at the rim, began stroking from distance, raining five first-half 3s. Thaddeus Young was a paratrooper, constantly dropping in behind the defense and dishing to his mates or nipping some for himself when no one’s looking.

Julius Randle continued his excellent play and Immanuel Quickley got the lion’s share of time at the point, and as hope goes these were two umbrellas against a Chicago storm that saw them assist on 20 of 23 first-half field goals. The Bulls led by four at the break.

Markkanen continued his barrage in the third. Zach LaVine went aggressively at Mitchell Robinson and hit a nice shot. He kept coming.

The Bulls were shooting nearly 60%. The Knicks couldn’t hit a 3 all night, but were perfectly satisfactory inside the arc. Sometimes better, even.

RJ Barrett made it a point not to settle for any looks the defense conceded. He kept attacking the basket, not bothering with 3s or jumpers, period. Late in the third the Knick defense got rolling, with special commendation to Nerlens Noel, who had five blocks and a couple dunks.

The Knicks’ fourth quarter stand was as interesting for who made it as for what they did. Mitch stayed on the bench, as did Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock. Noel, Quickley and Alec Burks played the decisive stretch alongside Randle and RJ. It was the rookie who hit from way downtown to put New York back on top for the first time in a looong time.

There was a bit of the ol’ back-and-forth. Daniel Gafford put back a LaVine miss. Randle scored over Markkanen. Young put the Bulls up. Mike Breen repeated an earlier point about Chicago’s numerous close losses this year, which Walt Frazier pointed out could be in the Bulls’ heads. To test the basketball gods twice is a sin; divine retribution came in the form of LaVine hitting a pull-up for his 10th point of the fourth. Burks hit a 3 to tie things at 100. Coby White’s 3 in the final minute put the Bulls up to stay.

New York ran a play for Randle, but he lost control of the ball as he spun. LaVine buried a 3 and that was the ballgame. The Knicks lost in Chicago. My sweet summer child. The Knicks always lose in Chicago.

Notes:

  • This game featured the rare Thaddeus Young triple-double watch. 13, 8, 8, a steal and a block for Young.
  • Burks played some of his best minutes in a while.
  • LaVine and Austin Rivers had a bit of a pissing match going on and it ended in both sides losing: Rivers scored one lonely little point; LaVine, who’s 10th in the league in scoring, got wrapped up with someone who’s the sixth-leading scorer...on the Knicks. One sequence of delusional dribbling ended in a fadeaway that never had a prayer. Think of what an elite scorer LaVine is. One of the best dozen or two on the planet. And yet only a handful of top cats in my lifetime — Michael Jordan; Kobe Bryant; Dwyane Wade; LeBron James; Carmelo Anthony; Kevin Durant; Michael Beasley? — make that shot.
  • Randle’s touch on baseline fadeaways has been looking positively...Ewingesque?
  • Quickley is brilliant at using opponents’ bumping into him from behind as a little boost toward the basket.
  • Last season Randle and Frank Ntilikina played 766 minutes together. This year Randle and Quickley haven’t even played 200 and it’s evident Randle is already way more comfortable passing him the ball than Frank.
  • Breen’s call of “Quickley...the floater” is beginning to rival Marv Albert’s “Ewing...yes!”, Sam Rosen’s “It’s a power play goal” and Ralph Kiner’s “It is going, going, gone!” in NY sportscasting canon.
  • Noel with highlights on both ends of the floor.
  • The rookie Patrick Williams had some impressive moments for the Bulls. Finished one drive with a lefty lay-up. Used another to set-up Markkanen under the rim. Didn’t look helpless guarding Randle one-on-one. If the Knicks had drafted Williams instead of Obi Toppin, and everything else had played out the same, specifically Randle’s terrific play, would you view Williams and Randle as any more or less compatible than Obi and Julius?
  • No Kevin Knox. Nine minutes for Toppin. One shot. He made it count.
  • Good trivia from MSG: who are the five current NBA head coaches who played for the Knicks?
  • Another interesting broadcast tidbit: the player with the most teammates in NBA history is Vince Carter, with 261. That struck me as a lot. Later I realized there were years I worked with more students than that. I wish we all had stability if we wanted it.
  • Whenever I see Coby White I’m still traumatized by the game last year when he made seven 3s in the fourth quarter of a Bulls’ win. Sometimes I think his first name is “Colby.” There are more cheeses named Colby (2) than NBA players all-time (0).
  • This is cool: look at how different Manute Bol’s shooting form was from his son Bol’s. This is as good a visual representation as I can imagine of how much children can be so eerily like their parents and yet so much further along.
  • My fiancee ripped the Bulls’ logo and 14-year-old me feels both seen and attacked.
  • Clyde called Markkanen “Markinson.”
  • Trivia answer: Billy Donovan, Rick Carlisle, Monty Williams, Scotty Brooks and Doc Rivers.

Quoth Jimmy BX: “Markkanen can shoot.” I imagine all the Knicks know that now. We’ll find out right quick, as the Knicks’ next game is Wednesday at Chicago. Again. Same bat-team, same bat-time, same bat-station.