Joakim Noah, Carmelo Anthony

The Chicago Bulls were exhausted following a four-overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons, and  were beaten into submission by the New York Knicks, although it would be wrong to pin their loss and the 15-10 record on fatigue alone.

The Bulls shot 39.4% from the field in the loss to the Knicks, enjoying a good game from Carmelo Anthony (27 points) and even Arron Afflalo, scoring 18. Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose combined to shot 7-of-21 from the field and when the two of them shoot this poorly it doesn’t necessarily mean the Bulls are going to lose, but it didn’t feel for one minute they have the ability to keep up the scoring pace, even with both Joakim Noah and Bobby Portis having their best offensive games of the season.

Noah scored 21 points in 29 minutes while starting, filling in for Pau Gasol. Portis, the rookie who has been left out of games so many times this season, finally got an opportunity to show something, scoring 20 points with 11 rebounds in only 23 minutes. The Bulls dominated the offensive glass (18 rebounds compared to 10 by the Knicks), 11 of them by Noah and Portis. But the new Bulls aren’t built to win like this, and not making something out of those second chances made it easy for the Knicks.

The Bulls still aren’t sure what their best lineup is, and when we’re almost at the end of December and the race in the East not clearing up, it’s something to worry about. Derrick Rose is on and off, and even Butler, who should be taking his next step towards superstardom, isn’t that special this season, at least offensively. Maybe now we’ll see Hoiberg giving Portis more minutes, as the former Arkansas star seems to deserve a little bit more credit on a team that sometimes lacks some spark and energy.

Losing to the Knicks by 16 points isn’t an indicator of awfulness like it was last season, but the Bulls need to think beyond the simple of excuse of playing twice in 22 hours. This team is struggling to find offensive rhythm and identity, maybe because of the struggles of Rose, but it’s more than that. Maybe keeping up with the Cavaliers is a bit too much to ask, but at least putting themselves above the rest of the East isn’t too much to ask, unless all the expectations and preseason hype was simply painting a pretty picture for a team that’s not as capable as we once thought.

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