Studs and Duds: Knicks suffer loss road loss to the Chicago Bulls

NBA: New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The last edition of Studs and Duds foreshadowed the situation that the New York Knicks found themselves in against the Chicago Bulls. A timid offense was seen from New York to start the game two games in a row, coinciding with the aforementioned lack of a scoring punch next to Jalen Brunson.

The Knicks will be without Julius Randle for the rest of the season. This contest saw the return of OG Anunoby, missing 27 of the last 30 games, wearing off the rust, and having a productive first game back in the lineup. Anunoby scored 12 points and two steals, while Jalen Brunson led all scorers with 35 points and 11 assists. But ultimately, the Knicks fell short to the Bulls in this one with a final score of 108–100.

Studs: Jalen Brunson does it all 

The MVP-caliber point guard has maintained a level of consistency this season on par with the best point guards in franchise history. Averaging 28 points per game this season, and 36 over the last five, the always-crafty Brunson has carried New York for most of the season.

Now with the playoffs drawing near, the Knicks are tasked with creating a scoring punch to rely on alongside Brunson. This played out in real time as New York went on the road to face the Chicago Bulls. Brunson scored 35 points in back-to-back nights, yet both games began with slow starts offensively from the Knicks.

New York was able to overcome this against the Sacramento Kings but not against the Chicago Bulls. In a situation where every game is a ‘must-win’ to close out the season in the best standings, Jalen Brunson is putting on a show night after night. The Knicks rotation can match this production from Brunson while playing stellar defense. New York comes up with a game plan effective enough then a Brunson-led Knicks team will shock the masses in the NBA playoffs.

Studs: OG Anunoby returns 

Recovering from an elbow injury, OG Anunoby only showed a glimpse of what’s to come with him in a larger offensive role going forward. In 28 minutes, Anunoby had 12 points with a variety of buckets including an emphatic baseline dunk showing no signs of aggravation in the elbow.

Playing elite defense that only Anunoby knows how was a key to the second-half run by New York. Chicago posted a 16-point halftime lead, but an 18-6 Knicks run brought the game within four, with the Knicks lacking the ability to take a lead down the stretch. Before the initial elbow injury, OG was coming into his own, averaging 17.6 points in his last five games pre-injury with a 26 points and six steals performance in a blowout win over the Nuggets.

Anunoby being back in the rotation solidifies New York’s defense and allows players such as Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo to take a small step back on offense while maximizing the winning intangibles. 

Studs: Miles McBride

In a short time, Miles McBride has stepped up as an offensive option for the New York Knicks. In the last ten games, McBride is averaging 18.3 points per game. The Chicago Bulls had no answer for McBride as he went for 19 points and four threes with the entire arsenal on display.

The current Knicks rotation creating an identity going forward will ensure distinction and consistency going into the playoffs. McBride can be relied on, and stepping up in the magnitude of the moment this playoff run will secure his future in the NBA. 

READ MORE: Projecting how the Knicks will replace Julius Randle’s production following season-ending surgery

Duds: Josh Hart ejected 

Since coming off a 31-point night against the Sacramento Kings, Josh Hart was ejected early into the second quarter. Hart was focal in the comeback win against the Kings, and while dropping 31 points was remarkable, the nine rebounds and eight assists are more ideal to how Hart consistently generates offense for the New York Knicks.

The defensive instincts of Hart have been a catalyst in the Knicks being a top 5 ranked defense in the NBA. Hart has become the glue for the Knicks in having the winning traits and mentality to help propel New York in the absence of Anunoby and Randle. 

Takeaways from the Knicks’ loss to the Bulls

The Knicks have five games remaining, with a headliner against the Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks. Creating distinction throughout the rotation will generate a game plan to sustain offense while maximizing defense. The idea of not knowing who’s to step up behind Jalen Brunson is not formidable for longevity in the playoffs. Primetime on Sunday night will allow players such as Bojan Bogdanovic and OG Anunoby to be more assertive against the length of the Milwaukee Bucks. 

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