Chicago Bulls win laugher vs. New York Knicks

By Tom Musick, The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 2, 2016 at 11:13 AM
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CHICAGO -- As media members surrounded Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler after Friday's win against the New York Knicks, teammate Taj Gibson jokingly pretended to hold an invisible microphone and angled his way toward the front of the pack.

"Were you tired guarding 'Melo'?" Gibson asked, leaning in close to Butler. "How did you feel tonight?"

Butler chuckled and shook his head.

"I plead the fifth," Butler said. "Get out of my face."

Bulls players laughed easily after a 108-81 win that marked their most lopsided victory of the season. Chicago (19-12) outscored the Knicks 31-8 in the fourth quarter en route to its third consecutive win.

Butler led the way with 23 points and six assists. Forwards Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic scored 17 points apiece, and forward Bobby Portis contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

"I thought our defense right out of the gate was very intense, and then we finished the game well," Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said. "That led to some very great offense on the other end. I thought our pace was excellent."

Forward Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Knicks. Guard Jose Calderon contributed 18 points.

New York (15-19) lost for the fifth time in the past six games. The team's eight-point fourth quarter marked its lowest offensive output in any quarter this season.

"We had some shots that didn't go in to start the fourth quarter, and I thought we got discouraged and let our energy get turned around the other way," Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. "It kind of snowballed from there."

Mirotic and Portis helped to ignite the Bulls down the stretch.

Portis tipped in a layup to cap an 11-4 run to start the fourth quarter. Mirotic buried a 3-pointer from 31 feet about a minute later to increase Chicago's lead to 95-79 with 6:03 left in the game.

Chicago forward Doug McDermott hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 103-81 with 3:49 to go. McDermott finished with 13 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter.

"We have been working our tails off in practice," McDermott said. "The coaches have been bringing it every day, and we're feeding off them."

Butler credited reserves such as Portis and McDermott for providing a lift off the bench in the final 12 minutes.

"That's the way we're supposed to play," Butler said. "Guarding, guys stepping up and knocking down big shots. We're a confident group of guys."

The Bulls entered the fourth quarter with a 77-73 advantage. The Knicks trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half before gaining their first lead with 5:20 left in the third quarter. Calderon scored 10 points in the quarter to keep New York in contention.

Chicago led 56-50 at halftime. An alley-oop pass from Gasol to Butler put the Bulls ahead 55-38 with 3:24 to go in the first half. New York closed the second quarter on a 12-1 run to narrow the gap to six.

The Bulls started the game on an 11-0 run and led 34-18 after the first quarter. The Knicks missed their first nine shots from the field until forward Kristaps Porzingis made a layup to snap the drought nearly four minutes after the opening tip.

Porzingis said he and his teammates could not afford to relax during extended portions of the game. On Friday, the Knicks shot 2-for-19 (10.5 percent) in the fourth quarter and were outrebounded 17-8.

"We just didn't play well," Porzingis said. "They were hitting shots and we kind of started thinking about ourselves too much rather than the whole team and the big picture. They weren't missing shots and they had a heck of a fourth quarter and just kicked our (backside) in the end."

NOTES: Bulls G Derrick Rose missed his second consecutive game because of right hamstring tendinitis. His status is uncertain for Sunday's game against the Toronto Raptors. Rose, 27, has appeared in 127 of 359 regular-season games since the start of the 2011-12 season. ... Knicks F Cleanthony Early missed his first game since being shot in the right knee during a robbery outside a strip club on Wednesday morning. Early reportedly will require six to 12 weeks to recover from the injury. ... Bulls G Kirk Hinrich started in place of Rose. Hinrich has started four games this season after starting 22 games in 2014-15. ... Knicks F Lou Amundson sat out for the third straight game because of lower back spasms. ... Bulls C Joakim Noah missed his fifth consecutive game because of a left shoulder sprain.

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