Wednesday's contest at Madison Square Garden was billed as the game that the player traded by the Bulls to New York would have his vengeance against his old team.
It was, as former Bull Jamal Crawford led the charge at the start of the final period to erase an 8-point deficit and give New York the lead for good.
These are two clubs with a number of players who recently played on the other?s team, none bigger than Knicks? center Eddy Curry. But despite proclamations that he would be back to face the team that dealt him, Curry came out in street clothes after making a game-time decision to rest his sore calf another game.
Playing their second game in two nights, the Bulls may have wilted down the stretch. The Knicks outscored the Bulls 35-19 in the fourth quarter after being solidly outplayed for the previous three. The Bulls maintained a consistent edge of 7-12 points throughout the night with intense defense and good shots generated by their patient offense.
Besides fatigue setting in on the Bulls squad, the Knicks may have had the good fortune of two other turning points: Coach Larry Brown?s decision to replace turnover-happy Malik Rose and Trevor Ariza?s power dunk to tie the game at 82 off the dish-back from Crawford on a fast break.
Crawford had 28 points, Stephon Marbury had 18 points and 8 assists, and Channing Frye had 21 points and 8 rebounds, continuing his rookie surge. Fellow rookie Nate Robinson joined Frye in the starting lineup and added 14 points.
Chicago was led by Ben Gordon's 28 points, including 7-11 from the three-point line, and Andres Nocioni?s 19 points. Michael Sweetney had 10 points and 4 rebounds in his return to the Garden. Tyson Chandler, Curry?s friend and fellow lottery pick, fouled out with 0 points and 5 rebounds in 18 minutes of play. This off-season, the Bulls rewarded Chandler with a long-term deal before trading Curry and Antonio Davis to New York for Sweetney, Tim Thomas and Jermaine Jackson.
Now Brown will confront the eternal quandary facing all coaches of multi-talented but inconsistent performers such as Crawford: Getting them to ?play that way? and reach their stand-out potential on a regular basis.