Bulls not ready for Thibodeau's wrath in rematch, fall 107-103
A Tom Thibodeau revenge game is clearly something the Bulls weren't equipped to handle.
They made a late comeback in the fourth quarter, but spent most of Wednesday night trailing by double digits and the New York Knicks won the second leg of this two-game series 107-103 at the United Center.
The former Bulls coach had his team playing aggressive and physical from the start. The Knicks attacked the Bulls' suspect interior defense and put a lid on the Lauri Markkanen scoring machine.
"We knew they were going to come back and be even more physical and tough," Bulls forward Thad Young said. "We knew they were going to try to bounce back. It's about imposing our will on the game early. We all know Tom's teams are some of the more physical teams in the league."
The Knicks started out testing the Bulls' rim protection. They scored their first 22 points of the game in the paint until Julius Randle canned a 3-pointer.
The Bulls started the night leading the league in defensive rebound percentage, but gave up 6 offensive boards in the opening quarter. New York led 34-17 after the first 12 minutes, and Randle had another big game, finishing with 27 points.
"I'm hopeful that it's a real good learning experience competitively for our guys because we shot the ball miserably tonight (6 for 36 from 3-point range)," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. "That happens. You have to find other ways to win and I thought we got dirty and grimy and physical, but it needed to be that way a lot earlier.
"We kind of really elevated our energy when Garrett (Temple) and Thad went to the floor for a loose ball."
The Bulls trailed by 18 points early in the fourth quarter, then got within 5 with an 18-5 run, capped by a one-hand alley-oop dunk by Daniel Gafford off a pass from Denzel Valentine.
The deficit dipped to 99-96 when Zach LaVine found Markkanen for a cutting dunk with 5:45 left. The Bulls got the ball back, but missed their next two shots, while Reggie Bullock hit a 3-pointer. The Bulls never had possession with a chance to tie or take the lead in the last three minutes.
LaVine led the Bulls with 27 points, while Young added 19. After scoring 30 points in consecutive games, Markkanen finished with just 9 on 3-of-8 shooting.
"Today was a big game, it's frustrating because I think if we won, we would have been tied for seventh (in the East)," LaVine said. "A lot of teams lost that we needed to lose today and it would have been a big momentum shift. But it didn't happen so we've got to put a little pressure on ourselves to go out there and get some in Orlando."
Forward Otto Porter sat out because of a sore back. It's the fourth game he's missed due to injury in the last month.
"It's been something that's been bothering and nagging with him," Donovan said before the game. "So we're going to try to just help him get corrected and feeling better. Obviously, I think he wants to play, but I think he knows he can't play to the level he knows he needs to. Right now, we're going to rest him and let him get some rehab, some treatment and then we'll see what happens going into Orlando."