After collapsing and losing an overtime heartbreaker to the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon, the Bulls were looking to redeem themselves when the teams rematched in Chicago on Tuesday night. The Bulls' hopes appeared to take a hit when Derrick Rose was ruled unfit to participate with a sore ankle, but they rolled anyway. Chicago got incredibly balanced scoring and its usual complement of solid defense and rebounding to beat New York 98-86.
Luol Deng and the Bulls took over from the outset, pulling ahead while holding New York scoreless for the first four minutes of the game. After a timeout, though, the Knicks raced right back into it and actually held a lead for much of the first quarter. By the time the second quarter came around, though, the Chicago reserves got rolling and built a lead that would never be fully overcome. Despite offense that got pretty ragged at times -- for both teams, really-- Chicago managed to press forward because of great defensive contributions from bench guys like Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, and Kyle Korver (Kyle Korver!). Chicago limited the Knicks -- who looked as offensively lifeless as ever without Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin -- to just 10 points in the second period, pulling ahead by 12 at halftime.
New York made a few runs in the third, but Chicago kept its edge thanks to an offensive explosion by Rip Hamilton. Hamilton had a bit of a throwback outing, scoring 18 of his 20 points in that period off a series of dribble drives, jumpers, and drawn fouls. Despite improved offense from New York, the Bulls held on to its double-digit lead heading into the final frame.
And in that fourth quarter, the Knicks kept showing signs of life, only to surrender a crucial second opportunity or foul call to let the Bulls pull back ahead. Korver in particular made some big hustle plays and hit a couple dagger shots to secure the victory. In the end, eight Bulls finished with six or more points, four reached double-figures, and Chicago rebounded more than a third (18 of 51) of its own misses while shooting 9-20 from downtown. Aside from Carmelo Anthony's 29 points, the Knicks got very little from anybody on offense. That's how you win a game without your best player (something the Bulls have done quite a bit of this season).
Chicago moved to 44-14 in victory, helping to secure its first-place seeding, while New York dropped to 28-27, falling back into eighth place behind the Philadelphia 76ers.
For all of Tuesday's NBA box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.