It came in the final minute of overtime Sunday when the Knicks missed on three consecutive shots and went on to grab three consecutive offensive rebounds leading to Carmelo Anthony sinking the game-winning 3-pointer. It troubled the Bulls that if at any point they had just denied one of those offensive rebounds and grabbed the ball themselves, the game was likely theirs.
On Tuesday, the Bulls weren’t going to let history repeat itself. While their 98-86 win over the Knicks Tuesday wasn’t determined by a single dramatic play like two days earlier, the Bulls made sure they were all over any opportunity that resembled such a play.
“We felt like we gave up too many chances up in New York,” Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. “The last play alone they had four or five offensive rebounds, Melo had three or four shots to win. Tonight, I thought we did a much better job of closing it out.”
Whether it was Bulls guard Kyle Korver diving for a loose ball and delivering an assist from the seat of his pants in the fourth quarter or Omer Asik rejecting what appeared to a wide-open dunk by Knicks center Tyson Chandler in the second quarter or any of the Bulls simply putting a body on a Knicks’ player and boxing out in any of the quarters, the Bulls prevented the Knicks from outhustling them on Tuesday.
“The game the other night it really came down to a couple plays,” said Korver, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in Tuesday’s win. “If we had gotten a few loose balls, if we had made a couple shots, if we had made a free throw, we would have won the game. So I think tonight everyone had the mindset of if there’s a loose ball, you got to get it. If there’s an open shot, you got to take it. I thought everybody did that tonight.”
With Derrick Rose out again on Tuesday, the depleted Bulls turned to what’s kept them atop of the Eastern Conference in their MVP’s absence -- defense and rebounding.
Outside of Anthony scoring a game-high 29 points and Chandler grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds on Tuesday, the Bulls held every other Knick in check. No one else scored more than 14 points, and no one else grabbed more than five rebounds. The Bulls outrebounded the Knicks 51-33 in total and 18-5 on the offensive glass.
“When you play solid defense and dominate a team on the boards, it doesn’t matter who you have on the offensive end -- it obviously matters, but not as much,” Korver said. “This is a team that hangs their hat on defense and rebounding.”