The Chicago Bulls stunned the New York Knicks 118-117on Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York, capping their four-game trip with a third straight win.
The Bulls improved to 14-18 and remained in 11th place in the Eastern Conference.
Here are six takeaways from the win.
1. DeMar DeRozan delivered another game-winner.
With the Bulls trailing 117-116 with six seconds remaining, DeRozan came off a dummy screen from Zach LaVine and pulled up in his comfort zone — the midrange just outside the elbow. DeRozan sank the game-winning shot and drew a foul with four-tenths of a second remaining to cement the victory, banging his chest while sprawled on his back as he returned to his role as an ice-cold closer.
The game ended with some confusion when DeRozan missed an attempt to clank his free throw to kill the final time on the clock. But the Bulls secured possession and clinched their third straight win.
“I knew we had a shot,” DeRozan said on the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast after the game. “We fought hard. We were going back and forth those last six minutes. Hell of a game, man. That’s how we’ve got to play. That’s how we’ve got to close out games. We made it fun, we competed and we got the win.”
2. The Bulls’ Big Three each scored 20 points or more for the fourth consecutive game.
LaVine, DeRozan and Nikola Vučević came up big once again, recording their fourth straight game of scoring 20 points or more apiece. LaVine had a team-high 33, Vučević finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds and DeRozan scored 25 and added 10 assists.
The trio became the first in franchise history to score more than 20 points per game in four consecutive outings. And while the three often racked up hollow stat lines during a recent four-game skid, their contributions in the last three games anchored improved performances across the roster.
3. The Knicks bailed the Bulls out with poor free-throw shooting.
The Knicks contributed heavily to the Bulls win with a putrid night from the free-throw line, finishing 15-for-26. Four of those costly misses came in the final 70 seconds.
Quentin Grimes missed a pair of free-throw attempts with 1:05 remaining, leaving the Bulls within striking distance with a 115-112 deficit. Jalen Brunson repeated the error with a one-point lead and 6.5 seconds remaining, giving the Bulls the opportunity to set up DeRozan for the game-winner.
4. Second-chance opportunities plagued the Bulls as the Knicks took advantage on the boards.
The Knicks kept the game tight by capitalizing on second-chance opportunities, where they outscored the Bulls 20-11. The Bulls were not heavily outrebounded on the offensive glass, snagging 11 offensive rebounds while allowing the Knicks to grab 12. But they were less efficient in creating off the chances.
This trend became vexing in the fourth quarter, when the Knicks were able to take an eight-point lead — the largest margin of the night.
5. Injuries didn’t prevent the Bulls from pulling out the win, even with Alex Caruso and Javonte Green on the sideline.
The Bulls played short-handed again. Caruso (acromioclavicular joint injury, concussion protocol) and Javonte Green (right knee soreness) — whom Donovan hopes to eventually play as starters when they return to full health — were both sidelined. Derrick Jones Jr. (left ankle sprain) also missed the game.
This injured trio typically shoulders a heavy load of the Bulls defense, particularly in the secondary rotation. The Bulls struggled to contain the Knicks without them but managed to pull out the win.
6. The Bulls pulled off their second straight clutch win after struggling in crunchtime in the first quarter of the season.
With two consecutive wins in close games this week, the Bulls improved to 5-11 in clutch games. The team has struggled to clinch tight games throughout the season, giving up heartbreaking game-winners despite pulling off large comebacks.
LaVine scored six points in the final two minutes, and DeRozan sank the winning shot, but credit the finish to a team effort. Coby White hit a pair of 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter to keep the Knicks from going on a run. And Ayo Dosunmu picked off a steal and ran it full-court for a layup to cut the deficit to one point with 3:10 remaining.
If the Bulls want to improve to .500 record or better, they’ll need to continue this trend.