The season for the New York Knicks has been a series of disappointments for the organization, both because of the quantity of losses they have suffered (15) and the quality of those losses (multiple blowouts). On Wednesday night, the Knicks suffered through another embarrassment as they had to hold on to defeat the Chicago Bulls by the slim margin of 83-78. While the Knicks and their fans are really in no position to turn up their noses at any victory, their sixth win of the season did carry with it a whiff of mediocrity as the Knicks almost blew a game they looked to be in complete control of.
Midway through the third quarter, the Knicks had amassed a 23-point lead, one that looked insurmountable considering how poorly the Bulls had played up to that point. In building the lead, the Knicks had been at their best, playing solid defense and offense and most importantly, taking advantage of the injury-depleted Bulls roster. The Bulls were having to make a go of it without a few of their best players, and the players who were in uniform for the team on Wednesday were never going to be considered world-beaters. On the other hand, the Knicks were only missing Raymond Felton, a player the team has been better off without with all season.
With the advantages the Knicks held, both in terms of the 23-point lead and the superior roster, it was a little perplexing that the Bulls were eventually able to tie the game at 74-74 with 3:38 left in the contest. Of course, the mystery of how an injury-ravaged Bulls team was able to work itself back into the contest is partially solved by having the Knicks offense that had been a ball-movement machine earlier in the game devolve into a bunch of isolations and other elementary offensive schemes that resulted in a lack of continuity and efficiency.
And when the Knicks did try to pass the ball, they turned the ball over on multiple possessions to further aid the Bulls in their comeback. From the time of their 23-point lead to the time when a Joakim Noah putback evened the score, the Knicks turned the ball over on eight separate occasions, fitting in the majority of their 13 turnovers into about fifteen minutes of game time.
Even when the Knicks were not turning the ball over, they were not exactly maximizing their offensive possessions as they also went just five of 23 from the field during the Bulls' comeback, allowing the Bulls to slowly whittle away at the Knicks' lead, albeit in an unimpressive fashion.
The Knicks did hold on for the win, but it should not have been a victory that should have ever been in doubt, especially considering that at no point in the contest were the Bulls especially impressive. Despite tying the game after being down 23 points, the Bulls still posted a paltry 46.0 true shooting percentage and scored just 90.4 points per 100 possessions.
Considering the circumstances of the game, for the Knicks to walk off the court with a winning margin of just five points should be considered a not-loss instead of a win. No other label fits the performance of the Knicks in Wednesday's contest quite so well.