If you want to know how Wednesday night went for the Chicago Bulls, all you had to see Quentin Grimes’ 3-point shot bouncing on the front of the rim and straight up in the air before falling through the net in overtime.
Yes, it was the New York Knicks’ hot shooting that doomed the Bulls in their 128-120 overtime loss against New York.
This was the first of a two-game home series against the Knicks, who extended their winning streak to five games. The Bulls, meanwhile, were coming off a heartbreaking loss against the Atlanta Hawks when rookie forward A.J. Griffin scored the game-winning tip-in at the buzzer.
The Bulls’ defense was non-existent in the first half, allowing 64 first-half points on 50 percent shooting to a team with the 30th-ranked offensive rating (108.8) over the past two weeks, according to Cleaning The Glass. Chicago tightened up its defense in the second half, allowing 53 points in the third -and – fourth quarters.
Offensively, the Bulls had little trouble scoring against a Knicks defense, the second-best defense in the NBA (103.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) over the past two weeks. Five Bulls players scored in double figures.
But the offense wilted in overtime and this game feels like a missed opportunity for the Bulls. The loss drops the Bulls to 3-11 in clutch situations — NBA.com defines a clutch situation as a game when the scoring margin is within five points with five minutes or fewer remaining.
DeMar DeRozan scored 32 points on 18 shots, converting 16 of his 17 free-throw attempts. Zach LaVine chipped in with 25 points, and Nikola Vucevic scored 19 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists.
With that said, let’s get to the takeaways from tonight’s game.
3-point defense — What else is there to say?
Much has been said and written about Chicago’s shooting woes, and Wednesday was no different. The Knicks entered the game last in 3-point percentage (31.9 percent), but shot 18-for-34 from the 3-point line against the Bulls at a blistering 52.9 percent. The Bulls shot 9-for-28 from the 3-point line.
It’s hard to win in today’s NBA when you’re losing the 3-point battle. LaVine, Vucevic and Coby White are the team’s highest-volume shooters from downtown and the trio combined to shoot 5-of-17 from behind the arc.
Chicago needs its three high-volume shooters to connect from downtown to offset the lack of volume from the rest of the roster.
2. Battle on the boards
Chicago entered Wednesday’s contest allowing the fewest second-chance points (11.1) in the NBA. The Bulls do an excellent job of limiting second-chance attempts, but the Knicks imposed their will. New York collected 15 rebounds compared to the Bulls’ three.
In a close game, every basket matters. Of the 15 offensive rebounds by the Knicks, six came in the fourth quarter. Knicks center Mitchell Robinson corralled three offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter.
In the above clip, Robinson moves Vucevic out of the way and converts the dunk to extend the Knicks’ fourth-quarter lead to four.
The Bulls have a very small margin for error if they’re not going to use the 3-point shot as a weapon. Chicago narrowly lost the free-throw battle (25 attempts for New York, 22 for Chicago), and though the Knicks had 18 turnovers to the Bulls’ 12, the Knicks outscored the Bulls 19-16 in points off turnovers.
Chicago must concentrate on the boards to limit the opposing team’s shot attempts.
3. The Patrick Williams conundrum
Patrick Williams had a productive first half: The third-year forward scored nine points and dished out three assists. Williams is shooting 43.6 percent from 3, but he’s only averaging three attempts per game. Williams looked confident shooting from deep.
In the first clip, Williams catches a LaVine pass in transition and immediately goes into his shooting motion. DeRozan is even pointing to LaVine to pass it to Williams.
In the second clip, Williams pump fakes before using a jab-step to create space and launching his second triple of the half.
The problem: Williams had one shot attempt in the second half. So far, inconsistency has been the story of Patrick Williams’ career. He goes through ebbs and flows throughout games, but against the Knicks, Williams found other ways to impact the game without scoring.
He dished out a season-high five assists and played strong defense on Julius Randle, using his strong frame to body up Randle, who likes to use his body to shield off defenders in the paint.
Ayo Dosunmu update: Ayo Dosunmu missed the Knicks game with what the Bulls call an abdominal contusion he suffered during the second quarter of Sunday’s overtime loss against the Atlanta Hawks.
Up next: The Bulls get a chance at redemption when they face off against the Knicks at the United Center on Friday.
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