The New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls needed two days off for entirely different reasons.
The surging Knicks hope to get point guard Jalen Brunson back while the Bulls aim to bounce back from an agonizing last-second loss when New York visits Chicago on Wednesday night in the opener of a home-and-home set.
The Knicks won their fourth straight game Sunday night, when they defeated the visiting Sacramento Kings 112-99.
The Bulls’ two-game winning streak ended Sunday when A.J. Griffin converted an alley-oop turnaround jumper at the overtime buzzer to lift the visiting Atlanta Hawks to a 123-122 win.
The winning streak has lifted New York over .500 (14-13) for the first time since Nov. 16 (8-7) and into sixth place — the last guaranteed playoff spot — in the Eastern Conference, as of Tuesday. The four-game winning streak is tied for the Knicks’ longest since the start of last season, when they were on the fringes of the play-in race during a four-game run from March 23-28.
In addition, three of the Knicks’ victories during this winning streak have come over teams currently occupying a playoff or play-in spot. Just four of New York’s first 10 wins were against teams that entered Tuesday in a playoff or play-in spot.
New York, which fashions itself a defensively minded team under head coach Tom Thibodeau, has allowed 102 points or fewer in all four games after doing so just once in the first 23 games.
“I feel like right now we’re clicking on offense and defense for sure,” said Knicks guard Quentin Grimes.
The Knicks have won their last two games without an optimal roster.
Power forward Obi Toppin is expected to be out until at least Christmas with a broken right fibula suffered against the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 7. Brunson injured his right foot twice against the Kings and is listed as questionable for Wednesday night. Thibodeau said Tuesday that Brunson — who has started all 27 games this season — was “feeling a lot better.”
For the Bulls, the 72 or so hours between games provided an opportunity to absorb the chaotic final minutes of their loss to the Hawks. With Chicago down 110-109, Derrick Jones Jr. was fouled on a layup with 0.4 seconds left in regulation and made the first free throw before missing the second.
In overtime, Trae Young hit a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining to put the Hawks ahead 121-119. But DeMar DeRozan got fouled by Bogdan Bogdanovic on a desperation 3-pointer with under a second left and hit all three free throws.
The Hawks then pulled out the unlikely win when Jalen Johnson lobbed an alley-oop pass to Griffin, who sank the turnaround jumper as time expired. The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Bulls, who were trying to win three straight for the first time since a six-game winning streak from Feb. 9-24.
“I mean, I’ve been in the league so much that I’ve seen crazier stuff happen,” said DeRozan, a 14-year NBA veteran. “It’s not over ’til it’s over.
“They made a hell of a play.”
–Field Level Media