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Tom Thibodeau isn’t used to losing in Chicago. So no wonder the former Bulls coach was hostile at United Center, lashing out at referees and his players in a dispiriting 110-102 loss to the mediocre Bulls.
The Bulls broke a three-game losing streak as Thibodeau’s club fell to a season-worst four games under .500 at 9-13. The Knicks have lost five of six games.
They were as cold as a snowstorm from the 3-point line and didn’t come up with any clutch scoring plays late.
After a Julius Randle turnover, Bulls guard Zach LaVine hit the dagger 3-pointer with 22 seconds left to put Chicago up 6. LaVine, who could soon be on the trading block, scored 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to repel the Knicks’ comeback from an 11-point deficit.
The Knicks shot 6 of 29 from the 3-point line and failed in the final two minutes. With 3:00 left, rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley gave the Knicks their first lead since early in the first quarter when he drained a 30-foot straightaway 3-pointer, putting them up 95-94, but there was no more magic.
Alec Burks (18 points) tied the game at 100-100 with a minute left on a 3-pointer. But Bulls point guard Coby White answered with a 3-pointer and Chicago didn’t look back.
Randle finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Quickley added 16 points and seven assists, but there wasn’t enough support elsewhere.
After a 10-game streak in which he shot 50 percent, RJ Barrett looked winded in the Windy City on the second night of a back-to-back. He finished with 14 points and missed all three 3-pointers, including one wide-open attempt late.
Thibodeau looked irritated across the contest. After White fed an open Derrick Gafford inside for an easy dunk, Thibodeau called timeout and lashed into the team for disorganized defense.
Thibodeau was making just his third return to Chicago since getting fired there in 2015 after an outstanding five-year run as Bulls coach.
Before the game, Thibodeau, a fan favorite in the Windy City, was asked about the Chicago years.
“I think coming in 2010, it was a young team,’’ said Thibodeau, the 2011 NBA Coach of the Year. “And we had a lot of cap space. So we added a really hungry group of players — Derrick Rose really took off. Joakim Noah took off. Luol Deng played at an All-Star level. But the togetherness of that team, how hard they played, how together they played, I think it just resonated with the city.”
The Bulls gained an 11-point lead in the second quarter as 2017 lottery pick Lauri Markannen killed the sluggish Knicks on his way to 30 points.
Behind Markannen’s 23 first-half points, the Bulls led 59-55 at halftime, shooting 54.8 percent.
Markannen, the 7-footer from Finland, made 5 of 7 3-point shots in the half to finish 8 of 11 from the field.
Surging Randle did not distinguish himself on defense against the European, but pumped in 18 first-half points against him, drawing a series of fouls. Randle made 7 of 7 free throws in the half.
Markannen was the player with whom former Knicks president Phil Jackson was intrigued during the 2017 draft. Jackson tried to wheel a Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster and trade up, but wound up taking Frank Ntilikina at No. 8. Nttilikina, in his fourth season, is now out of the Knicks rotation.
Quickley put up eight first-half points with six assists, though he didn’t shoot it well early after back-to-back 25-point outings.
The Knicks fell behind by 11 again in the third quarter and Thibodeau was yapping at the referees.
A late Knicks rally cut the deficit to 3 after three quarters. Randle was the facilitator. He drew a double team inside and fired pass to Alec Burks, who banged in a corner 3.
The Knicks defense intensified and forced a turnover that led to Randle’s feed to Nerlens Noel for a fastbreak dunk, bringing the Knicks to within 84-81 after three quarters.
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