Bulls save collapse for second half, get swept by Knicks

Credit New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau for thinking about his old Chicago fans on Friday.

Bulls supporters watched their team play a miserable second half and lose 114-91 at the United Center, dropping both legs of this week's two-game series against the Knicks.

Fans who stuck around until the end got to see Thibodeau summon Derrick Rose from the end of the New York bench. They gave Rose a standing ovation and a brief "MVP" chant as he checked in with 3:31 remaining. The home crowd exploded when Rose drained a 3-pointer.

Rose was recently pulled from the Knicks' rotation and hadn't played in five straight games before seeing some late action Friday. New York has gone 6-0 since the switch.

Rose's mop-up time provided a nice distraction. But the Bulls' performance was troubling. After a long string of falling behind early and then coming back to lose close games, the Bulls started fine in this one, then were outscored 56-38 in the second half.

"We've got to understand when we're playing well, teams are not just going to keep letting us play well," Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan said. "They're not going to play the same way. Each quarter that goes on, we've got to pick it up even more."

Several problems stood out in the box score. The Bulls were buried in free throw attempts, 32-8. New York dominated the offensive rebounds 15-2. And the Bulls coughed up 20 turnovers for good measure.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan thought when some foul calls went against them in the second quarter, the team lost focus. DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic both got technical fouls for arguing with referees.

"I thought our collective spirit needed to be a whole lot better," Donovan said. "I understand the frustration at times when you see the discrepancy at the free-throw line. You've got to be able to have resolve to move through adversity and stuff you can't control. I thought that weighed on us and impacted our spirit. It kind of bled into the third quarter."

Donovan's talk evolved into the differences between last year, when the Bulls made the playoffs, and this year's 11-17 start. The idea was some continuity with the roster would help the Bulls take a step forward, but it hasn't happened. Donovan pointed out that without DeRozan's consecutive buzzer-beating shots, last year's Bulls would have been in the play-in tournament.

"I don't want to say they were lucky, but there were things that went our way," Donovan said. "My thing was, 'What happens when it doesn't go our way?' And it hasn't gone our way. Can we as a group have the resolve and the will to fight through whatever is thrown in our way? Are we going to have resolve, because it's in our face and we have to address it."

Donovan made a comparison with the Knicks' making the playoffs two years ago, then missing out last year. They added some pieces, mainly point guard Jalen Brunson, and are back on track for the postseason.

Asked what leads him to believe the Bulls can turn it around this year, Donovan paused before answering.

"Individually, we have high character, really great guys," he said. "But we've got to collectively as a group have that spirit. It can't be individually. It doesn't work that way.

"What is the team? Is the team unselfish? Do they play together? Would they fight for each other? It's all about that kind of stuff. I think there's a lot of pride individually that all those guys have, but we've got to be able to do that collectively as a group."

Brunson and Quentin Grimes combined to hit 9 of their first 10 3-point attempts. R.J. Barrett led the Knicks with 27 points, while Brunson and Grimes added 22 each.

Bulls make two-way shift: Before Friday's game, the Bulls made a switch in their two-way contracts. They signed Windy City Bulls point guard Carlik Jones to a two-way deal and released forward Kostas Antetokounmpo. Jones is averaging 20.9 points and 7.7 assists for Windy City this season.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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