Bulls lose to Knicks while Lopez nearly sets career-high

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (42) dunks during the second half Monday against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Lopez celebrated his 31st birthday by scoring 29 points, one short of his career-high.

    Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (42) dunks during the second half Monday against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Lopez celebrated his 31st birthday by scoring 29 points, one short of his career-high. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/1/2019 10:20 PM

Robin Lopez usually celebrates his birthday by getting into a mock fight with a mascot.

The New York Knicks have no mascot, so Lopez honored the occasion by nearly producing a career-high. He finished with 29 points and would have beat his previous best of 30 points had he not missed 2 free throws with 31 seconds left.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He could have scored 31 points on his 31st birthday, but the rim was unkind. The Lopez scoring spree was one of the few highlights in the Bulls' 113-1105 loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

"Thems the breaks," Lopez told reporters after the game. "We have a lot of talented scorers on our team. I was trying to help out. Defensively, I could have been better. I was trying to communicate with teammates, keep spirits afloat."

Using their lineup with no regular starters, the Bulls were OK for a while, playing to a 15-15 tie just past the midway point of the first quarter. But then the Knicks went on a 22-2 run and eventually stretched their advantage to 28 points midway through the second quarter.

The Bulls put up a fight and got within 5 points with about seven minutes left, but that's as close as it got. New York was scorching from long range, as power forward Luke Kornet went 5-for-7 from 3-point range and scored 24 points, while shooting guard Damyean Dotson was 6-for-7.

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"There were some positives, but the lesson is we have to start better," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said after the game. "I thought their half-court pace to start the game was better than ours and I thought their ball movement was better than ours. We kind of figured it out after that."

The Bulls started newcomer Walt Lemon Jr. at point guard. The Chicago native played well in his Bulls debut on Saturday, but struggled a little bit in New York, hitting 3 of 12 shots for 6 points with 5 assists and 3 steals.

"I thought Walt had a lot of learning moments in this game," Boylen said. "I thought he had some plays that he could make, that he will mark and I thought for it being his first start in the Garden, a big moment, I thought he competed. So he'll get better and he'll grow."

Instead, it was the other recent addition from the Windy City Bulls who played well. Forward JaKarr Sampson delivered 22 points and 7 rebounds in his official Bulls debut. He spent preseason with the Bulls and is a veteran of 169 NBA games, mostly with Philadelphia.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The one thing I like about JaKarr is he just competes," Boylen said. "You throw him out there at 3, you throw him out there at 4, you throw him out there at 5, he figures it out. He gets downhill. He embraces contact, collision. He's just a tough, hard-playing dude.

"When you've got him and Shaq (Harrison) and Archie out there, those are some tough guys. I liked that lineup there for a few minutes."

Ryan Arcidiacono played well by backing up Lemon, finishing with 14 points. Harrison, a 6-4 guard, led the Bulls with 10 rebounds.

The Bulls (21-57) are down to four games left and they seem just about locked in to the fourth-worst record, which would give them a 12.5 percent chance at the top pick at the May 14 draft lottery.

In other news, Kris Dunn told reporters he'd still like to play again this season. He's missed the past three games with a back injury. There was also a report Windy City Bulls coach Charlie Henry will join Fred Hoiberg's staff at Nebraska.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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