Bulls hand slumping Knicks most lopsided loss of season

CHICAGO -- There was little drama during the game but plenty

of it afterward.

The Chicago Bulls wasted no time putting away New York, moving a

step closer to securing the second seed in the Eastern Conference

by handing the Knicks their most lopsided loss of the season, 98-69

on Tuesday night.

Then, things got tense.

Nate Robinson, Jerome James and Steve Francis had words with the

Bulls' Tyrus Thomas afterward. And James had to be restrained from

going after him in the hallway.

"I think they were definitely trying to rub it in," said Eddy

Curry, who spent his first four seasons with the Bulls. "But we'll

see them next year."

Fans get free Big Macs if the Bulls score 100. Chicago's Chris

Duhon acknowledged they were trying to feed spectators but denied

trying to run up the score. Thabo Sefolosha missed a 3-pointer with

1:04 left, and Duhon missed two in the final minute. Malik Allen

also missed a layup with 10 seconds left.

"We just wanted to do something for the fans," Duhon said. "I

don't cook, so I wanted one myself. We certainly didn't mean any

disrespect."

The Knicks didn't see it that way, though.

"As a veteran, I have been in the league long enough, and I

know when people are trying to run up the score on you," Francis

said. "And I told their players, if I was in the game, it would've

been something different. If it was a threat or whatever, I'm a

veteran. I won't do that to nobody, and I don't expect nobody to

try to do that to younger players on my team, so that's what it

was."

Second in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls (47-32) lead

fifth-place Cleveland by a half-game and Atlantic Division winner

Toronto by 1 1/2. Chicago owns the tiebreaker over both teams and has

clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Bulls still have an outside shot at the No. 1 seed, but one

more loss by Chicago or a win by Detroit would clinch it for the

Pistons.

"We did well to put that game away early," said Luol Deng, who

scored 15 points. "It's a good win. It's important because we want

to finish second. Now, we just have to focus on our next

opponent."

Ben Gordon scored 23 points, and the Bulls turned 25 turnovers

into 30 points.

The Bulls and Cleveland appeared to be in a two-team race for

the second seed, with the loser dropping to fifth. But with Toronto

on a roll, the third seed is also a possibility.

Robinson scored 24 points for New York (32-46), which lost for

the sixth time in seven games. Curry committed two offensive fouls

in the opening 1:44 and finished with just four points and seven

rebounds.

With four games left, the 10th-place Knicks still have a remote

shot at the postseason, but they have to climb over Orlando and

Indiana to grab a playoff spot. Against Chicago, they were simply

overmatched.

Four of the Knicks' top five scorers -- guard Stephon Marbury

(sprained right big toe), guard Jamal Crawford (right ankle stress

fracture), forward Quentin Richardson (back surgery) and forward

David Lee (right leg pain) -- were nursing injuries. New York was

also without forward Renaldo Balkman, who stayed home with a

stomach virus and missed his second consecutive game.

Things quickly unraveled against the Bulls.

Curry, New York's leading scorer, headed to the sideline after

picking up those offensive fouls. The Knicks committed seven

turnovers in the first 4:01. New York also missed nine of its first

10 shots, which probably explains why Curry checked back in midway

through the quarter with the score 12-2.

It was 21-10 after the first quarter and 45-27 at halftime.

"I have never been accused of running up the score," Bulls

coach Scott Skiles said. "From everything I hear, the Knicks are

on the verge of becoming a great team. So they are probably a team

we will be playing over and over again the years to come. Something

like this should not fester."

But Curry accused his former coach of doing just that. Asked if

he was surprised Skiles would allow the Bulls to run up the score,

Curry said, "No, I'm not. I'm not surprised."

Game Notes
The Bulls' most lopsided victory was a 111-66 win over

Memphis on Jan. 13. The 66 points were a season-low for an

opponent. ... New York's worst defeat before this game was a

123-100 loss to Denver on Dec. 16. ... Bulls F Andres Nocioni,

making his first appearance at the United Center since Jan. 27,

received a loud ovation when he checked in late in the first

quarter. Nocioni had missed 28 of 29 games because of plantar

fasciitis in his right foot before returning Sunday at Toronto.