Chicago Bulls News: Demar DeRozan Cannot Rescue Team From Disastrous Fate in NYC

The Chicago Bulls badly needed a win Monday night in the Big Apple against the New York Knicks. Chicago held a one-game advantage over the Toronto Raptors for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Given that the Raptors were taking on a depleted Boston Celtics squad, Chicago had to do its part against the lowly Knicks to ensure it would not slide in the playoff standings.

Well, consider the opportunity wasted.

The Bulls fell apart in Madison Square Garden, and even the typical late-game brilliance of DeMar DeRozan could not deliver them from an embarrassing fate. A play-in spot looks increasingly likely for Chicago as it fails to add must-win games to its belt.

The Bulls blew a 12-point lead in a brutal loss to the Knicks

Chicago finds itself fighting to stay out of the play-in tournament down the stretch as things get tight between the Bulls, Raptors, and Cleveland Cavaliers. With such little room for error, the Bulls need to take care of business against teams like the Knicks.

Sure, the Knicks had gone 8-4 in their last 12 entering Monday’s matchup. But New York still sat in 11th place and did not seem to have the offensive firepower to match the Bulls. It certainly appeared that way early.

Chicago raced out to a 12-point advantage early in the first half, shooting 63% from the field in the first quarter before watching DeMar DeRozan score nine points in the first 2:13 of the second quarter. However, just as soon as the Bulls seized the momentum, they fell apart.

New York clawed back into the game as the Bulls went cold and began turning the ball over. The Knicks took a three-point lead into the half and stayed in control for the rest of the game as Chicago’s offense continued to sputter in the third period.

DeRozan, who has excelled late in games this season, scored 15 points in the fourth quarter in an effort to drag the Bulls to a grinding victory. But Alec Burks’ three-pointer with 23 seconds to put a stamp on the game.

This was a game the Bulls should have won. But they keep running into the same issues, and the Knicks clearly made an effort to exploit certain matchups.

Turnovers and bad trapping schemes

Early-game turnovers have come back to bit the Bulls past losses. So, too, has the inability to implement trapping schemes when defending pick-and-roll.

Both issues played a role in Monday’s loss.

Despite the hot shooting in the first quarter, the Bulls led by just four points, in part because they turned the ball over four times. Giveaways again hurt Chicago in the second quarter, as four more turnovers supplemented a poor shooting period and allowed the Knicks to take control of the contest.

In the second half, the Bulls looked out of sorts on traps. Nikola Vucevic and Tristan Thompson would over help on ball-handlers in pick-and-roll, allowing the Knicks to start ball movement leading to open three-pointers. Even with DeRozan, Coby White, and Zach LaVine (all poor defenders) on the floor together, Chicago still went with this scheme.

New York also made it very clear it planned to target LaVine and DeRozan. Alec Burks and RJ Barrett repeatedly went at the Bulls stars. When one of LaVine or DeRozan stepped in to cut off straight-line drives, the Knicks often walked into open triples. Later in the game, Immanuel Quickley repeatedly drove to the basket and often made things happen on dribble penetration.

The Knicks knew how to attack the Bulls, and Chicago’s offensive resurgence down the stretch proved too little, too late. Head coach Billy Donovan’s team is barely staying above water.

It’s getting sticky for Chicago

Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan looks on during an NBA game against the Sacramento Kings in March 2022
DeMar DeRozan looks on during a game against the Sacramento Kings on March 14, 2022 | Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine have tried to instill confidence and maintain composure amid the team’s 5-11 post-All-Star break stretch. But the Bulls are in a precarious position, more so when they lose games to teams like the Knicks.

Chicago now finds itself with the same record as the Raptors. After a win over the Orlando Magic, the No. 7-seeded Cavaliers are just one game back. It’s incredibly tight, which is wretched news for the Bulls.

Four of Chicago’s final seven games come against the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Celtics, and Minnesota Timberwolves. They might also face the Los Angeles Clippers with Paul George, who may be returning from an elbow injury that has sidelined him since late December. Not to mention, the Bulls must play a Charlotte Hornets team that has won seven of its last nine games.

If the Bulls fail to bounce back against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, they may almost certainly find themselves in the play-in game against the Brooklyn Nets. Even if Chicago does get a victory, the Knicks loss could ultimately serve as a backbreaker given the difficult nature of the team’s closing schedule.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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