As much as NBA officials try to make some games about themselves (you know, ego and being human), there was still enough of good basketball from the Chicago Bulls in Madison Square Garden to rise above the ejections and technical fouls, especially from Luol Deng in what was his best game of the season.
If there’s one player the Bulls need to be playing way above his ordinary level, it’s Luol Deng. He’s averaging 18.1 points and 7.3 rebounds this season, but at his best he does it all on both ends of the floor. Friday night, in a 110-106 win against the New York Knicks, he scored a season high of 29 points, adding 13 rebounds Derrick Rose is still quite far from his official comeback, but Deng and the Bulls are now at 15-10 and looking more and more like the Chicago Bulls team that didn’t do too bad without Rose last season.
The New York Knicks, with the different factor of Carmelo Anthony instead of Derrick Rose, are trying to do something similar to the Chicago Bulls in the last couple of years, at least with the mantra of defense first and foremost. The problem is, that despite their great start to the season (19-7, 11-2 at home), the Chicago Bulls are simply better in this kind of game. No wonder it’s the second time in two weeks that the Bulls have beaten the Knicks.
Because Chicago have the right kind of combination between inside presence with the ability to stretch out and respond to permieter ball movement like the Knicks do, mostly thanks to Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. Not everything Noah does is about basketball, managing to get into the head of Tyson Chandler and get them both ejected, but he’s pretty good even without the trash talk, finishing with 15 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
That inside-out thing that has been working so well for the Knicks this season, centered around Carmelo Anthony’s complete dominance on offense, was what worked so well for the Bulls. They shot 8-18 from beyond the arc (44.4%) while keeping the Knicks at an unusual 30.8% from three. Carmelo Anthony, struggling all day with the very long arms of Luol Deng did finish with 29 points, but was only 40% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc.
Some would say that the game got out of hand because of the players, but referees and the NBA have to understand that no one cares about the referees. No one tunes in to watch refs eject players for something we don’t understand. Officials aren’t above the people and the game, and there’s nothing wrong with talking to them or even telling them they’re wrong. The Knicks did make a weird comeback in the end through Raymond Felton and Chris Copeland, but the game had a ruined feel to it after four ejections.
The Bulls continue with their way. Defense, defense, defense. Hoping to catch a good shooting day through Kirk Hinrich (16 points, 4-5 for three) and Marco Belinelli (22 points), while Deng obviously needs to continue and remain dominant offensively, something he isn’t always too happy to do. When their shooting and execution offensively is this good, it’s really hard to beat them. It’s getting harder and harder over the last couple of weeks.