The Knicks continue to hold onto their slim lead on the bottom-rung of the Eastern Conference playoffs standings with a thrilling and improbable 100-99 overtime win over the Bulls.
Led by Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks (29-27) erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to force the extra frame. The Bulls had a second-half surge in which they erased a 21-point first-half deficit to take their first lead of the game when they led 73-72 with just 34.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but were unable to seal the deal as the Knicks stormed back late.
Chicago (43-14) went the past 12 games without the services of the league’s reigning MVP, Derrick Rose. But as misfortunes would have it, Rose returned from a groin malady just in time to torment the Knicks. Rose, who’s missed a total of 22 games this season with a myriad of injuries, started slow but caught fire in the pivotal third quarter when he helped erase an eight-point halftime deficit and flipped that into a 75-72 lead after three quarters.
Rose’s heroics weren’t enough, however, as Anthony did everything he could to stave off the Bulls’ stampede. The much-maligned star raised his game to epic status as he drilled a deep 3-pointer with just 8.2 seconds remaining to give the Knicks a 100-99 lead. The shot came off of two clutch offensive rebounds that allowed Anthony to re-set the offense, sans a timeout, and nail a tightly-contested 3 that sent the crowd into an uproar.
Anthony said he appreciated the grit his team showed in the comeback and also for not panicking when the Bulls stormed back.
“We made stops and kept our composure down the stretch and made a run to win the game,” Anthony said. “We also kept our confidence and we just had the will to win this game.”
Anthony, starting again at power forward in the absence of Amar’e Stoudemire (back), had a game-high 43 points (22 in the first half), including another huge 3 in the waning seconds of regulation to make it a 91-91 score. Anthony showed his leadership abilities as he was able to come through following two crucial Rose misses at the foul line moments earlier. Anthony’s 3-pointer capped a 10-0 Knicks run to send the game into overtime. Rose missed a jumper at the buzzer to force the extra session.
The dramatic back-and-forth in the fourth quarter began with just three minutes remaining as the Knicks chipped away via hustle plays from Tyson Chandler and stifling defense. It also didn’t hurt that the Bulls were anemic from the foul line down the stretch.
But while Anthony didn’t have his fellow superstar sidekick, Anthony did have Iman Shumpert. The rookie certainly sufficed as he tallied 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Other teammates tried to match Anthony’s and Shumpert’s excellence, but no one else was able to find his shot, as the next highest scorer was J.R. Smith, who had 14 points but shot just 6-of-22, including 2-of-11 from 3. Overall, the Knicks shot just 38 percent, while the Bulls didn’t shoot much better (39 percent).
Steve Novak came into the game shooting a league-best 48 percent from 3 and is widely regarded as a top-five shooter in the league, but his heroism fell short when he missed a wide-open 3 in the waning seconds. The shot went half-way down and rimmed out as the Bulls gathered the rebound. But the Bulls again bailed out the Knicks as Rose missed his two free throws that followed Luol Deng’s two missed freebies a possession earlier.
Knicks’ interim head coach Mike Woodson uttered “unbelievable” as he stepped to the podium, apparently just as shocked with the outcome as other were. By the time he was ready to answer questions, Woodson laughed when he recalled both of Anthony’s deep 3s, specifically the eventual game-winner.
“I was screaming, ‘Take the ball to the basket,’” Woodson said with a chuckle, quickly ready to praise Anthony for his valor. “I’m starting to really dig this guy.”
The Knicks as a team found a way to be courageous by snatching victory from defeat, as they rode the hot hand of Anthony and the smothering defense of Smith, Chandler and Shumpert. The triumvirate was critical in forcing Rose into a game-high eight turnovers in his return to action.
The win could hopefully be a springboard for a Knicks team that ended the game just a 1/2 game behind the No. 7 Sixers, with a rematch Tuesday against the Bulls and the pivotal game against the Bucks the following night.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 as the team make their playoff push.