This game obviously descended into chaos in the fourth quarter, so let's instead focus on the first three. For the second time in two meetings, the Bulls were able to muck up the game and prevent a high-powered Knicks offense from doing its thing. You could have thrown out the first win in Chicago because Carmelo Anthony was hurt, but you couldn't have thrown out this one.
Why are the Bulls such a bad matchup for the Knicks? On the offensive side, they have three outstanding frontcourt players, so the Knicks can't really hide Anthony on anyone. Luol Deng is forever solid, Carlos Boozer is the team's biggest offensive threat (if not always its most productive player) and Joakim Noah does so much screen-setting, offensive rebounding, cutting and passing that you can't just put Anthony on him, as the Knicks often tried.
But I think it's the defensive end where things get interesting. The Knicks have two clear strengths besides the one-on-one brilliance of Anthony: three-point shooting off ball rotation, and the threat of Tyson Chandler rolling to the rim. It's nearly impossible to stop both of these strengths, but the Bulls were able to do it by practically daring the Knicks' ball-handlers to shoot the open mid-range shots off the pick and roll.
Look at some of these screenshots.
Notice how far back Noah is playing here. He's so concerned about the lob that he's willing to concede pull-up jumpers all night. You have to give up something, and the Bulls evidently decided to give up the mid-range jumper.
But s this a formula other teams can copy? My first instinct is to say no, because it takes an extremely skilled defensive big man to pull this off. It's always dangerous to tell your center to concede this much space. Playing too close to the ball-handler could lead to them turning the corner, and playing too far back could allow them to get a full head of steam to drive by. But as you can see in these screenshots, Noah plays further back on some guys (Pablo Prigioni, Raymond Felton and, weirdly enough, Anthony) and a little closer to others (J.R. Smith). He has an excellent sense of personnel, and when you combine that with his unique quickness for a man his size, he's able to do things that most big man can't in these type of situations.
On the bright side for Knicks fans, they did discover something in that fourth quarter that they could probably use in future matchups. Also, the Bulls barely played their bench, whereas the Knicks had their normal rotation. The Knicks could probably shorten theirs in a playoff matchup and make up some of the gaps.
Nevertheless, the Bulls are definitely a thorn in their side, and that'll only get worse if Derrick Rose comes back strong.
The score of the game was close, but this is one of those contests where the losing team's head coach is fuming because they didn't do any of the things that they usually need to do to emerge victorious. Sure, Paul Pierce poured in 35 points, but I'm guessing Doc Rivers would have preferred a more balance scoring effort. And yes, this game went into overtime, but it took an absurd comeback to make that happen.
It's hard to tell whether the 76ers are mediocre in a "this is pointless" way or mediocre in a "we're building towards something even without Andrew Bynum" kind of way. Wins like this, where Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young display their immense growth this season, fit into the latter category.
It's hard for me to figure out what the Mavericks are actually trying to accomplish on a given offensive possession. It's as if they collectively decide that certain players get a quota of plays where they're allowed to do whatever they want. The Mavericks played hard and kept this game close, but you need a more detailed offensive plan to beat a team like Memphis.
Toronto nearly gave this away at the end, but ended up pulling out their fifth straight win. Read that last part again.
And now, let's marvel at Terrence Ross.
Clippers 97, Kings 85
Classic Sacramento Kings performance here. Fall behind early, show just enough in their disorganized mess of an offense to keep the game respectable, then eventually lose by double digits. Oh, and DeMarcus Cousins is feuding with another coach.
This was the only noteworthy thing that happened in this game.
The Spurs got everyone back healthy and submitted a performance that was just good enough to get a win. Given the obvious adjustment period that results when injured players return to the lineup, I'm guessing Gregg Popovich will take it.
This takes the cake for "worst loss of the season."