Three Takeaways From The Chicago Bulls Win Over The New York Knicks

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 27: Kris Dunn /

The Chicago Bulls won at home against the New York Knicks in an ugly fashion. Here are three takeaways from the game.

The Chicago Bulls notched their 12th win on the season against the New York Knicks, beating them 97-92. The Knicks seemed to be in firm control for most of the game and entered the fourth in the driver’s seat.

A cold stretch offensively, however, was enough to let the Bulls claw their way back into the game. While it wasn’t pretty by any means, a victory is a victory and the Bulls are now 9-5 in December after winning only three game prior.

Lauri Markkanen and Kristaps Porzingis are a match made in heaven

Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis and Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen are slowly developing a fun rivalry.

Both of the two European bigs came into the league with intriguing skill sets for their size. Porzingis, a lengthy forward with guard skills and unheard of athleticism for a 7’3” player. And Markkanen, a player hailed as possibly the best shooter for his height in NCAA history.

Draft buzz kept the discussion alive when Markkanen was reportedly considered as a replacement for Porzingis by former Knicks executive Phil Jackson, back during the bizarre saga when Jackson was supposedly shopping his young star around the league.

The storyline continued when the two lit it up this past summer during FIBA Eurobasket, although both Latvia and Finland fell short of the podium.

Their performances led to a flurry of comparisons, with Bulls fans pointing to Porzingis’ previous Eurobasket output as an indicator of what may be in store for Markkanen’s future in the NBA.

Both are fun to watch

Across two meetings, Porzingis is averaging five rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 2 blocks to go along with 23 points on a dreadful 40% shooting. Markkanen is averaging 13.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks, all while shooting 41.4%.

Even though the state lines might leave something to be desire, the encounters have still been a pleasure to watch. The two mostly guard each other while on the floor, leading to great duels throughout each game. Wednesday’s Bulls victory leaves the season series at 2-0.

He seems to play much more aggressive whenever he has a one-on-one opportunity with Porzingis, and the Unicorn seems to reciprocate.

His defense on Porzingis this year has also been really solid. He plays for the block a lot more frequently when it’s Porzingis facing him up in the post.

His usual lapses also seem far less frequent when it’s the Knicks coming to town. Just look at this clutch defense on the much quicker Courtney Lee to help close out the game.

Perhaps it’s just the Bulls fan in me itching for Markkanen to be good enough to duel Porzingis for the coming years, but defensive plays like this one make that itch seem just a little bit more real.

With Markkanen continually living up to his nickname as the ‘Finnisher’ in late-game situations, it seems only natural to have superstar aspirations for a player who seems to clamor for opportunities to prove himself in the clutch.

And with dunks like these becoming all too common, why not keep the bar high?

Here’s to many more years of these two treating us to highlight reels.

The Bench Mob lives on

The Bulls bench once again came in with a strong performance to help Chicago secure another win at home.

When things looked to get out of hand it was plays like Paul Zipser scoring a quick six points or David Nwaba scoring five points in 42 seconds to give the Bulls some momentum that kept the team afloat.

The bench mob has been electric during the Bulls’ December turnaround. Other teams are scrambling to defend the perimeter when the Bulls are in transition and Chicago is giving opponents fits during long stretches of the game.

The Bulls bench is a plus 33 in the month of December, third behind Golden State’s and San Antonio’s benches. They’re in the top five among benches in total rebounds, points scored, assists, and field-goal percentage, per stats.NBA.

One of the big bright spots during this run has been at the forward spot. The newly-dubbed one-two punch of Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic has provided the Bulls with a huge lift so far.

Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis have been great together

The duo boast a plus-63 in 146 minutes played together this month, an average of +5.7 in 13.3 minutes per game. Their plus-minus is by far the best across all of Chicago’s tandems, starter or bench.

Both players are rebounding relatively well, stretching the floor, and stepping up on defense more than they have so far since they’ve been in the league.

Mirotic in particular has been an x-factor for the Bulls, averaging 17.2 points on blistering shooting percentages along with 7.6 rebounds. He’s posting up players, hitting his threes consistently, making his pump fakes count, and hitting step backs.

Both Mirotic and Portis have a legitimate claim to be the starting power forward, Mirotic moreso so far. If it weren’t for the duo’s altercation and Markkanen’s hot start, that spot would likely be up for grabs.

Uh, guys, are we still tanking?

Don’t look now, but the Bulls are now tied with the Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets for the eleventh seed in the Eastern Conference right now.

In most of their December losses, the Bulls have still been competitive. There is no sense of apathy, there is no lack of fight, and there is no quit with this team.

Did I mention that Zach LaVine isn’t even back yet?

The Bulls are a far cry from October and November squad that managed to disappoint despite low expectations. Their shocking rise has come even quicker than the shock fans accustomed to winning seasons experienced earlier in the season.

And while winning basketball is a great change of pace for the fanbase, what does this mean for the future?

Is it time for Bulls fans to stop dreaming of Marvin Bagely III and Luka Doncic?

Chicago is currently projected to pick between seventh and ninth in the 2018 NBA draft, a far cry from mock drafts a month ago. 

While many of those who had already buckled themselves in for the tank might be worrying, there’s still a lot of season left to go. Don’t start lowering your expectations for the draft just yet.

In the short-term, the Bulls have a tough slate coming in January, with ten of their fifteen games coming against teams in the eighth seed or better. Seven of those game are away.

In the long-term, players like Mirotic and Robin Lopez could be on the trade block as the all-star break rolls around. Losing either one of them would put a lot of strain on the Bulls and likely result in a big skid.

For now, enjoy the taste of winning, We’ll see soon enough if the Bulls are for real and, even if they are, whether or not management will keep the roster intact.