CHICAGO (MCT) — One of Tom Thibodeau’s favorite sayings — “We have more than enough to win” — applies no matter the injury, no matter the circumstance.
The Chicago Bulls’ 98-86 victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday night at the United Center not only avenged Sunday’s difficult overtime loss but supported that theory once again.
Playing without Derrick Rose and again using Richard Hamilton for only limited minutes, the Bulls received another strong effort from The Bench Mob to improve to 16-7 without the league’s reigning most valuable player.
Hamilton’s 20 points led a balanced attack as 10 Bulls scored and they enjoyed ridiculous advantages of 51-33 on the boards and 25-5 on second-chance points.
“I thought the defense was good, the rebounding was outstanding and we took care of the ball,” Thibodeau said. “The way we started was great. Rip got in rhythm. That helped. We had a lot of guys step up. The bench played great in that second quarter.
Hamilton scored 18 points in the third quarter alone, playing the entire period. Although he didn’t return and again played just 20 minutes, he also finished with five assists.
“He has missed a ton of time but he has put a lot of work in,” Thibodeau said. “He’s getting more comfortable. You can see his rhythm is coming around. He was playmaking, got us in a good rhythm.”
The bench helped the Bulls outscore the Knicks 25-10 in the second quarter. John Lucas III scored seven points and Omer Asik and Jimmy Butler contributed solid defense to lead the way.
Asik’s block of a Tyson Chandler dunk attempt led to a fast-break which Kyle Korver, who finished with 14 points, capped with a 3-pointer. Lucas followed with another bomb to cap the 14-2 run.
Butler logged stretches — including in the fourth quarter — guarding Carmelo Anthony, who led the Knicks with 24 points.
Luol Deng added 19 points and 10 rebounds in 40 minutes.
Then again, if these teams square off in the first round of the NBA playoffs, it’s hard to know how much to take from this game, the only of the four-game season series decided by more than five points.
Besides Rose’s sprained right ankle, the Knicks were without Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin.
With the Heat coming to town Thursday night, the Bulls upped their lead to capture the Eastern Conference’s top seed to three games thanks to the Heat’s home loss to the Celtics. Only eight games remain for the Bulls.
“Health and playing well are the two most important things,” Thibodeau said.
Layups: Over the last 25 seasons, only four teams have posted the league’s best record in two straight. The 1986-87 and 1987-88 Lakers, the 1995-96 and 1996-97 Bulls, the 1997-98 and 1998-99 Jazz and 2008-09 and 2009-10 Cavaliers all achieved the feat. ... Asked about a Sun-Times report that his longtime girlfriend is pregnant, Rose said: “That’s my personal life. I think I need a little bit of privacy for myself.” Then Rose apologized for not answering the question.