Knicks hold off battered Bulls for win

Despite a depleted roster, a poor shooting performance, and a head coach currently on the hottest of seats, the New York Knicks managed to hold off a late charge from the equally unfortunate Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night for a 83-78 win at Madison Square Garden, and have now pulled out victories in three of their last five outings after losing nine straight.

Now 6-15 and in fourth place in the under-achieving Atlantic Division, the Knicks trailed 17-15 at the end of the opening period before outscoring Chicago 31-15 in the second quarter to enter halftime with a 14-point lead.

Led by Carmelo Anthony who filled up the stat sheet with 30 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and a block, the Knicks controlled the opening minutes of the third, and built a 23-point lead before a disastrous, two-minute stretch that consisted of five turnovers and paved the way for the Bulls to begin a comeback prior to the start of the fourth quarter.

After managing just three buckets in the first nine minutes of the fourth, New York found themselves on the wrong end of a 20-6 run that knotted the game at 74-74 with a little more than three and a half minutes remaining in regulation.

The Knicks then went ahead on an Amare Stoudemire jumper that was followed by a pair of free throws from Anthony to put New York up 78-74, ending Chicago’s comeback charge and their run of six-straight wins over New York, who were without the services of guard Raymond Felton who was sidelined with a nagging hamstring injury.

In the win, New York shot just over 40 percent from the field (31-76) and 26 percent from long distance, compared to Chicago who shot 33 percent from the floor and 29 percent from behind the arc in a losing effort. While the Knicks nearly cost themselves the ballgame after dealing with turnover issues of their own, New York won the overall battle 22-13, despite their near-collapse late in the third quarter and overall struggles shooting the ball.

Mike Dunleavy Jr led the way with 20 points for the Bulls who fell to (8-12) in the loss, while both Carlos Boozer (12 pts-12 reb) and Joakim Noah (12 pts-11 reb), registered double-doubles for Chicago, who has had trouble scoring recently without Derrick Rose who’s out for the season, and both Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng who were sidelined due to injuries on Wednesday night.

For a pair of injury-plagued teams that made the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, Thursday night’s contest served as a reminder of just how quick things can turn around in today’s NBA, a fact not likely lost on anyone who took the floor during a game that featured two of the league’s most disappointing franchises.

As if there were any need to add controversy to the already prime time-worthy drama that has been the first six weeks of New York’s regular-season, former Knicks’ head coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, was pulled as a commentator from Wednesday night’s broadcast due to the situation involving current head coach Mike Woodson and Van Gundy’s potential as a replacement if a move is made.

Wanting to avoid a situation that could potentially involve Van Gundy becoming the focus of a game that he was supposed to be broadcasting, New York’s former bench boss was excluded from the broadcast after rumors involving himself, and even Bulls’ head coach Tom Thibodeau who was an assistant in New York under Van Gundy, surfaced earlier in the week regarding New York’s options post-Woodson.

On a positive note, Stoudemire turned in another promising performance in the win with 14 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes of action, and has looked much better while scoring in double figures in each of his last four appearances.

Both teams will be back on the court Friday when New York looks to build on Wednesday night’s victory in a date with the new-look Celtics on the road, while Chicago wIll attempt to improve upon their dismal 2-9 record away from home when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks.

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