Newly eliminated Knicks stop Bulls' streak at 7
NEW YORK – Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 20 points, and the New York Knicks, a night after being eliminated from playoff contention, beat the Bulls, 100-89, on Sunday.
No longer with any hopes of their own, the Knicks snapped the Bulls' seven-game winning streak and dropped them back into a tie with Toronto for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference with two to play.
Whatever expectations the Bulls had were gone after Derrick Rose was lost to season-ending knee surgery in late November and Luol Deng was traded Jan. 7. But they have not only regrouped but flourished, bringing an Eastern Conference-best 35-14 mark in 2014 into Sunday's play.
But they will need help now – perhaps from the Knicks, who host Toronto in Wednesday's finale – to get the No. 3 spot, since the Raptors would get the tiebreaker as a division champion. The Bulls close against Orlando on Monday and at Charlotte on Wednesday.
Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith each had 17 points for the Knicks, who were eliminated Saturday when Atlanta beat Miami, ending New York's run of three straight postseason berths.
A 54-division champion last season, they believed they were built to play deep into the spring, so confident in what they had that Amare Stoudemire said the expectations should have been even higher.
"On paper, we might be the best team in the league," he said before the game. "We've got great players on this team who've accomplished so much. We just couldn't put it together."
Joakim Noah had 13 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists for the Bulls. Jimmy Butler scored 17 points, but Chicago was just 6 of 22 (27 percent) from 3-point range.
The Knicks led 45-39 at halftime, then Smith hit consecutive 3-pointers and Raymond Felton made one for a 9-0 spurt that opened a 60-46 advantage, and the lead reached 67-50 when Anthony nailed a 3.
Chicago was down 17 again with 7½ minutes to play before finally making a push, cutting it to 93-87 when Taj Gibson's three-point play capped a 15-4 run. But they repeatedly misfired from the perimeter, preventing them from getting any closer.
The Knicks have played well in March and April, beating Toronto on Friday, but it's too late after they had already fallen to 21-40.
"Being the coach, I just apologize to the fans, because again, they pay their hard-earned money to come out and see us play and we didn't come into this season expecting this," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said.
Notes: The game was originally scheduled for a 1 p.m. start and be shown nationally on ABC, but was booted shortly after the Bulls' 109-90 rout of the Knicks in Chicago on March 2. The Indiana-Oklahoma City game was shifted to that marquee spot. ... Chicago was trying for its first eight-game winning streak since Feb. 20-March 7, 2012.