Carter returns, but Bulls can't stop Knicks' inside game

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. returned to the lineup Saturday after missing 22 games with a sprained right ankle. But the Bulls couldn't stop the New York Knicks' inside game in a 125-115 loss.

    Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. returned to the lineup Saturday after missing 22 games with a sprained right ankle. But the Bulls couldn't stop the New York Knicks' inside game in a 125-115 loss. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/29/2020 9:35 PM

Wendell Carter Jr. returned to the Bulls lineup Saturday in New York after missing 22 games with a high ankle sprain.

It seemed like good news, and it probably will be eventually. But despite Carter's return, the Bulls were abused on the inside Saturday.

 

The Knicks piled up 76 points in the paint, a season-high for a Bulls opponent, along with a 50-33 rebound advantage and beat the Bulls 125-115 at Madison Square Garden.

"It definitely bothers me as a player, 70-some points in the paint and they rebounded like 53 percent of their misses," Carter told reporters after the game. "I just feel like that's a recipe for disaster. If we can't be tougher as a team we're going to lose that battle every time.

"I'm not going to blame it on me not being 100 percent. I wasn't physical enough, obviously. I've just got to approach every game that I've got to make sure my presence is felt on the physical side."

Carter was limited to 18 minutes and led the Bulls with 9 rebounds, so he doesn't deserve much blame. Power forward Thaddeus Young collected 3 rebounds in 32 minutes.

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New York's big men had their way. Backup center Mitchell Robinson finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while starting center Julius Randle had 22 points and 10 boards. Ex-Bulls power forward Taj Gibson even got in on the act, with 17 points and 8 boards.

The Bulls' second-leading rebounder was a tie between Cristiano Felicio, who played 10 minutes, and point guard Tomas Satoransky with 4 each.

"It was a similar thing to the last time we were here," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. "Their physicality, their size was hard on us. I thought they got middle on us too much. I thought that created situations at the rim, lobs and then you have to shift and the offensive rebounding opportunities are open."

Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 26 points. Coby White saw his 30-point streak end at three, but he did finish with 22 points. White was listed as a game-time decision due to a sore back suffered before Thursday's practice.

Denzel Valentine also returned Saturday after missing seven games with a hamstring strain. He scored 8 points late in the third quarter and brought the Bulls within 89-86 at the end of three quarters after trailing by as many as 17 points.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The closest the Bulls would get in the fourth quarter was 95-93 with 9:28 remaining after a White 3-pointer took a high bounce and went through the rim. The Knicks answered with a pair of 3-pointers by Kevin Knox and Wayne Ellington.

In between, Ryan Arcidiacono threw a pass that appeared to go out of bounds off Bobby Portis' foot. But it was called New York ball and why the Bulls pondered challenging the call, the Knicks rushed the ball inbounds to foil that potential strategy. After that, the Bulls never got closer than 5 points.

In theory, things might get better as the Bulls get used to having Carter back. Before the ankle injury, Carter could make a good case for being the Bulls best all-around player.

"I got winded pretty quickly," Carter said. "I tried to train and get prepared for it, but there's nothing like playing in a game. That's something I'm working toward now. Trying to get my second wind back.

"Going down the stretch, I felt like I didn't really have it. Not necessarily my ankle hurt or anything, it was just more I wasn't in a groove, my timing was off in everything I was doing. My pick and roll coverages were kind of shaky."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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