Bulls falter down the stretch, Knicks win Christmas Day game 103-95

With the score tied at 87 a piece with 10:10 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Chicago Bulls and NY Knicks looked as if they were heading to an epic finish.

That's when the drought started. And the Knicks capitalized, going on a 10-0 run, finished off by a Wilson Chandler 4-foot jumper with 2:27 remaining.

The Bulls failed to score until Carlos Boozer made a hook shot in the paint with 1:52 -- yes 1:52 -- minutes left in the 4th quarter. But by then, it was too late.

You're simply not going to win playing so pathetically on offense in late-game situations. There was not much offensive continuity during the drought.

Carlos Boozer was brought to Chicago to provide a low-post presence, something that's needed come playoffs. However, I thought the Bulls didn't give him the ball in the low-post enough during the drought. Instead, they went with pick-and-rolls or Iso's, usually for Derrick Rose.

Rose had spurts where he looked like the best player on the court, and had a good line on the stat sheet -- 25 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, and 6 steals -- however, he also had 7 turnovers, took 28 shots, and had several poor passes. Early in the game, I thought Rose was pressing a little bit, looking for his own offense instead of letting the game come to him.

Much of that, though, can be attributed to the poor start for the rest of the Bulls. Rose had 11 of the Bulls' 20 first-quarter points, but it came on 13 shots.

Boozer had an excellent game offensively, with game-high's in both points, 25, and rebounds, 19. Boozer was very successful when he went to backing down and bullying the Knicks' big-men. However, I thought he settled for the fade-away jumper too much, instead of just going with what was working, which was simply out-muscling the Knicks' big-men.

Besides Rose and Boozer, the rest of the cast was putrid. Luol Deng had a sequence where it felt like he was going to start asserting himself more, but he disappeared, as usual, during the 4th quarter. He finished the game with 15 points and 6 rebounds -- on 5 of 12 shooting.

Boozer, Rose, and Deng combined for 66 points -- the rest of the Bulls had just 29 points. With Joakim Noah out, the Bulls have done an excellent job of playing team basketball. Everyone making a contribution. But today, everyone came out sluggish and the energy level never picked up.

A game like today's is an excellent example of what Noah provides the Bulls: energy that can lift his teammates. They could have definitely used him and his motor today.

Let's take a closer look at today's loss against the Knicks:  

What led to the Bulls loss

In the 4th quarter the Bulls scored just 12 points. After scoring 20, 34, and 29 the first three quarters, the Bulls simply couldn't make a shot in the 4th quarter.

They didn't score from the 10:10 minute mark all the way up to 1:52 minutes left. That's simply not going to get it done. I don't understand why the Bulls didn't dump it down to Boozer and milk him, per say.

The Knicks had no answer for Boozer. Yet the Bulls opted for unnecessary pick-and-rolls and had plenty of turnovers, too.

Scoring was a question-mark for the Bulls coming into the season; besides Rose, Boozer, and Deng, who else can the Bulls get consistent offense from? That's the question that has yet to be answered.

Noah's loss was big defensively, but as I've said several times, it could be offensively where his loss is even greater. He keeps possessions alive with offensive rebounds, has become an excellent finisher around the rim, and is an outstanding passer for a center.

What does it signify

The Bulls need to figure out what they're going to do to sure up their scoring. I hate to over react to one loss, but the Bulls really showed their weakness down the stretch, failing to score for over 8 minutes in the 4th quarter.

Rose is fantastic. I have always been behind him. But instead of settling for a pick-and-roll every time, the Bulls need to start utilizing Boozer in the low-post much more. Boozer is a force in the paint; it shocked me when the Bulls went away from him during their drought.

During their 4th quarter drought, I assumed they would go down to Boozer to settle down the game. They went to him a few times, but definitely not enough.

Don't get me wrong, the pick-and-roll is a deadly way to score. The Utah Jazz used it a lot with Deron Williams and Boozer, but the Bulls need to know when to get away from it and just give it to Boozer down low. He won't come through every time, but as we saw today, he was simply too strong for the Knicks' big-men.

Key performer

There wasn't much positive for the Bulls today, but Boozer had a well-rounded game with 26 points and 19 rebounds.

He really controlled the glass, and the Bulls needed every bit of it. The Knicks had three players with 10 or more rebounds, but the Bulls only had one, Boozer. Yet they still held the advantage on the glass, 48 to 44.

With Kurt Thomas in foul trouble for most of the game, Omer Asik pretty much a non-factor in this high-paced game, and Taj Gibson playing just 13 minutes, Boozer really stepped up on the boards.

I assumed that GIbson would be ready to play big minutes today against the run-and-gun Knicks, but he played so few minutes it was tough to gauge if he was battling some sort of injury.

Final thoughts

Today's game was one the Bulls could have won and sent a big message to fans across the nation.

It was right there for the Bulls to take, but they just couldn't get it done in the 4th quarter. Give credit to the Knicks, they came to play and ran excellent plays down the stretch.

The Bulls simply couldn't keep Raymond Felton out of the paint and were teared apart yet again by the three-point shot -- as the Knicks knocked down 12.

What's next
 
11/26:  Bulls (18-10) @ Detroit Pistons (10-19). 5:00pm C.S.T. CSN/ESPN 1000

Quick turnaround for the Bulls, as they will head to Detroit to play against one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.

I fully expect the Bulls to win tomorrow, despite losing a tough one today. They can't afford to play down to the competition, as the Pistons certainly have the talent to run with the Bulls.

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