The recipe that mixes Friday night and Madison Square Garden continues to produce fantastic scenarios, to make the biggest Hollywood studios blush.
And unfortunately for the New York fans, it was the locals who returned to the locker room on the wrong side of the final score (118-117), the Knicks losing on a “game-winner” of DeMar DeRozanwho scored a huge shot full of composure with the foul at the head of the racket, 0.4 seconds from the final buzzer.
With this killer shot, the winger of the Bulls came to spoil the evening of his Knicks counterpart, RJ Barrettauthor of his best performance of the season, and more broadly his second best career performance in “scoring” with 44 points (plus 7 rebounds and 4 assists).
It was an outcome worthy of the quality of the meeting, absolutely gripping and exciting, marked by an enormous offensive pace and little defensive intensity on both sides (49% on shots including 45% from behind the arc for Chicago, 50% and 46% for New York), during which the maximum difference, on each side, was only 8 points.
This is the second setback in a row for Tom Thibodeau’s men, who are experiencing a slight slack after their fine series of eight straight wins. As for Billy Donovan’s troop, it’s actually the opposite dynamic, since the Bulls have won a third game in a row, after having come close to an internal crisis last week, after a heavy defeat against these same Knicks.
WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER
– A reference performance for RJ Barrett. If his record is 46 points, last season against the Heat, this performance against Chicago would clearly have been the best of his entire career if the victory had been there. Because RJ Barrett has perhaps never been so clean throughout a match in his career as during this evening. The numbers are crazy: 44 points at 14/20 on shots including 6/6 from behind the arc, 10/13 on free throws, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. The only shadow on the board, still substantial: 6 ball losses. But overall, the Canadian was grandiose, with an XXL performance which confirms a continuous rise in power since the beginning of December.
– Jalen Brunson shook, not DeMar DeRozan. A little flashback of a few hours to get back into the swing of things. With 6 seconds left on the Madison Square Garden floor, the Knicks lead 117-116 with two free throws to come for Jalen Brunson. With an 89% success in the exercise this season, the leader has the opportunity to advance the gap to +3 before the last possession of the Bulls. Seconds later, the Knicks lost after a shot in the last second by DeMar DeRozan. Meanwhile, the former Mavericks missed his two attempts on the repair line, when “Deebo” did not shake at the head of the racket. Cruel for Jalen Brunson, despite any author of a consistent match (12 points and 9 assists).
✅ The Bulls trio. By halftime, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic had scored 38 of the Bulls’ 58 points. At the end of the game, 79 of 118 points. Suffice to say that the trio carried the team from start to finish, the second (25 points, 7 rebounds and 10 assists) taking care of offering on the eve of New Year’s Eve a poisoned gift to “MSG” in the dying moments. And if Zach LaVine finished top scorer for his team, with 33 points on a nice 12/22, it was Nikola Vucevic who signed the best performance with a consistent double-double, at 21 points and 12 rebounds. The chemistry is not always optimal on the floor between these three players, who sometimes are content to follow each other in phases of isolation, and their defense is not transcendent either, but still, ultimatelythat they managed to find the solutions to guide theirs towards a significant success given their delay in the standings of the Eastern Conference.
✅ Julius Randle. Not much to report for “Ju”, in the oven and in the mill for his own (29 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists and even 2 blocks). Small regret all the same on the free throws, a 2/5 in the exercise for him. But overall, a strong match, in relay of an incandescent RJ Barrett.
✅ Immanuel Quickley. The Knicks’ sixth man is very good right now, still punchy in his entries. In 21 minutes, he brought 15 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists, for a +11 +/-, the best of the game.
⛔️ Quentin Grimes. The starting man in the Knicks’ eight-game winning streak throughout December, the Kansas-Houston trained guard missed the previous game against the Raptors with an ankle scare. Back in the five major, he failed to find the rhythm, and this was especially felt on shots (3/11). His defense was however still level, a lesser evil in a complicated evening for him.
⛔️ The Knicks waste on free throws. A defeat of a small point in the end, and 11 missed free throws throughout the match (15/26). The outcome of the meeting does not come down exclusively to this terrible ratio for the Knicks, given that they were still leading until the last of DeMar DeRozan, but it is probably difficult to think of anything after the fact, for the club and their fans. An extra throw sent the game into overtime, two was enough for the victory… We imagine that Tom Thibodeau will announce overtime on the repair line at the next training session for the Knicks.
New York (18-15): 76ers reception for Christmas Day, Sunday (6 p.m.)
Chicago (14-18): reception of the Rockets, on the night of Monday to Tuesday (02:00)