CHICAGO – It was the perfect homecoming for both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
“I’m not going to lie,” Noah said. “It felt great.”
But emotional tributes aside, this night was more about the Knicks finally looking like a competent NBA team on both ends of the court and finally discovering Kristaps Porzingis.
After being both invisible and ignored in Wednesday’s ugly loss to Houston, Porzingis went from passive to aggressive on Friday and emerged as the best player on the floor.
Porzingis scored 27 points as the Knicks, despite blowing an early lead, took control in the third quarter and cruised to a 117-104 victory. The victory snapped a two-game losing streak and improved the Knicks to 2-3 overall heading into Sunday’s matinee against Utah at the Garden.
“Maybe this is a reality check,” Porzingis said afterwards. “Things were going my way but I can never be too comfortable. I have to always be aggressive and feel like I can get better at.
“I watched film from the last game and saw situations where I can be better at it. Happy we played the way we did today.”
Rose and Noah played with more energy and focus in familiar surroundings against former teammates. Rose was more composed and spent more time trying to get his teammates involved and not just look to score. He still took 14 shots but his 11 assists were five more than he had totaled in the opening four games. He also had seven rebounds to go along with 15 points.
Derrick Rose’s 11 assists were five more than he had totaled in the opening four games.
“I’m going to figure this out,” Rose said. “All of this takes time. And it takes time to have that open communication to argue with each other, say something not take offense to it. We’re trying to figure it out. Everybody loves winning. That’s the (good) thing about it.”
Noah looked like the Noah of old as opposed to just an old Noah. He had 16 points with nine rebounds and simply overmatched former Knick Robin Lopez, who was sent to Chicago in the Rose deal last June. It was a drastic turnaround from Wednesday when Noah was benched in the third quarter for rookie guard Ron Baker.
“I think it was pretty obvious that we were definitely a team that was dealing with a couple losses,” Noah said. “In New York City when you lose a couple games, you definitely feel it. When you win, it’s the best. But when you lose, they’re on you. It was good to bounce back.
“I think our team is going to keep growing. We need that adversity. That’s when you know what a team is really made of.”
All five starters scored in double figures with Courtney Lee playing his best game; 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting. Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony added 25 points on 22 shots including the corner three that put the Knicks ahead 10 with 50.6 seconds left. Anthony scored eight points in the final period.
The loss was the second straight for the Bulls after they started the season 3-0. Dwyane Wade continues to look rejuvenated. He finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds and had five of Chicago’s eight three-pointers. Jimmy Butler added 26 but otherwise the Bulls have a lot of question marks.
Rose’s replacement, Rajon Rondo, was a liability on both ends of the court. He made just 2 of 10 shots. Meanwhile Doug McDermott, who is now in his third season, is far too inconsistent. He played 26 minutes and with the Bulls needing him to become a perimeter threat McDermott attempted just one three-pointer.
Joakim Noah looked like the Noah of old as opposed to just an old Noah.
The treatment for Rose during player introductions is what you would expect; a mixture of boos and cheers. He was booed early on when the touched the ball but when the Bulls honored both Rose and Noah with a video tribute during the first timeout, the United Center roared.
“There’s no bad blood between me and anybody in the organization,” Rose said.
Noah added: “There was a lot of love in the building….There are no regrets. We gave everything we had for this city.”
Both former Bulls had an extra bounce in their steps as the Knicks got off to quick start and built a 16-point lead. Porzingis took as many shots (4) in the first seven minutes as he did the entire game against the Rockets. He finished the first half with 16 points and yet the Knicks still trailed at halftime for the third straight game.
Their inability to play sound team defense saw a 16-point lead turn into a six-point second quarter deficit as Wade scored 19 points.
The Knicks regained the lead for good in the third quarter as Jeff Hornacek stuck with his starters for much of the period. The move seemed to be as much of an indictment of the bench as it was a sign of how much he wanted this game.
Porzingis scored seven points to open the fourth quarter, including a three-pointer and a dunk in transition as the Knicks extended their lead to 15. The Bulls closed to within 98-91 before Brandon Jennings buried an open three from the corner. Wade’s jumper gave the Bulls a chance with 1:50 left. That made it 108-102 but on the ensuing possession Rose drove to the basket and was fouled as he sank a lay-up.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News