WHAT IT MEANS: Carmelo Anthony put on his best performance as a Knick, scoring a game-high 43 points, including two clutch 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter and in overtime, to lead his team over the NBA's overall top seed, the Bulls (43-14), who saw the return of Derrick Rose.
The Knicks improved to 29-27, holding on to the eighth seed. But if the Philadelphia 76ers lose later Sunday against the Boston Celtics, the Knicks would move up to the seventh spot.
TURNING POINT: The Knicks had a commanding 31-19 first-quarter lead, even leading at one point 27-8, but the Bulls fought back, winning the next three quarters. A big reason was D-Rose, who scored only two points in the opening period, but 27 the rest of the game. He hit a big 3-pointer to tie the game at 67, the first tie since 0-0, and went on to make two more in the fourth quarter, to build a bigger lead. But after the Bulls missed four straight free throws, Anthony made them pay with a 3-pointer with 11.2 left in the final period to tie the game at 91 to send it into overtime. And then a 3-pointer from about that same exact spot, on the right wing, beat the Bulls.
THE GOOD: 1. Carmelo Anthony shined bright in a big game. In his past six contests, as the Knicks have gone 4-2, Melo has regained his shooting touch, especially right out of the gate, as he's averaged 27.7 points per game. Sunday afternoon, it wasn't any different in the first quarter. Melo came out firing and aggressive, scoring 12 points on a perfect 5-for-5 from the field (2-for-2 from downtown). He didn't let up, as he finished with a game-high 43 points.
2. Iman Shumpert and Tyson Chandler anchoring strong defense against D-Rose. Shumpert started it from the perimeter, playing right up on the newly-returned Bulls point guard, who missed 12 straight games with a strained right groin. Rose was obviously out of rhythm, and Shumpert took advantage of the situation, giving him no clear line of sight and forcing him into seven turnovers.
In the paint, Chandler clogged Rose's room to finish around the rim and put up his patented floater. Rose shot 5-for-14 from the field midway through the first half, but only two of those came within close range. The others were 3-pointers.
3. The Knicks limited the Bulls' prowess at second-chance scoring. Entering Sunday, the Bulls were tied for tops in the NBA in second-chance points per game (15.9, along with the Utah Jazz). A big reason for that has been Joakim Noah, who's tied for fourth best in the league in offensive rebounds per game (3.7, along with the Pistons' Greg Monroe). But Chandler held him to only two on Sunday.
BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME: With 7:16 to play in the third quarter, Landry Fields missed a 3-pointer from the left wing and Iman Shumpert timed the bounce off of the rim perfectly to soar in for the one-hand putback dunk. The rookie performed a similar play Thursday night in Orlando to close out the first quarter.
THE BAD: 1. Too much perimeter play. While the Knicks exploded to a 31-19 first-quarter lead on hot jump shooting, especially on Melo's 12 points, they relied too much on that starting in the second period, as the Bulls built a 26-22 lead. Then in the third, the Bulls outscored the Knicks 30-19.
The Knicks played too much one-on-one ball without enough creative play calling. Their lack of penetration off of pick-and-rolls didn't allow them to get as many open looks as they had earlier in the game. Quick, ill-advised shots were also to blame. The overarching issue is that the Knicks don't have a legitimate and consistent second playmaker to help spread the floor.
2. The Knicks went away from their defensive game plan in the second half. Their approach resembled how they collapsed in Indiana on Tuesday night, when the Pacers outscored the Knicks 40-17 in the fourth quarter. A combination of fatigue and slower defensive rotations allowed the Bulls to go off from downtown, especially at the start of the final period when they had two 3-pointers to put them up 81-75.
3. Tyson Chandler suffered a right elbow contusion in the first quarter, but he did return in the following period. However, his elbow was heavily iced while he sat on the bench. Considering Chandler is already playing through groin and wrist injuries, this is something that certainly bears monitoring in the coming days.
WHAT'S NEXT: A rematch with the Bulls on Tuesday night in Chicago at 9:30 p.m. ET.
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