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February 17, 2010
Five Thoughts
Knicks-Bulls

by Bradford Doolittle

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It's hard to imagine that the Knicks' front office is any more focused on the offseason than New York's players appeared to be in Chicago on Tuesday.

Players on both the Knicks and the Bulls were dealing with the uncertainty of not knowing who their teammates are going to be at the end of this week. The limbo didn't bother the Bulls, who sprinted off to an early lead and never looked back. New York played with soon-to-be-traded Nate Robinson, who didn't make the trip because of ... well, I'm never heard a satisfactory answer to that question. The Bulls played without Joakim Noah, who is improving but is taking further rest because of his bout with plantar faciitis.

GAME FLOW

NEW YORK KNICKS
                  Poss   oRTG   eFG%  oREB%  FT/FGA  TO%
First Quarter      22   127.3   .556   .222   .444  .136
Second Quarter     27    82.4   .417   .000   .083  .150
Third Quarter      23    78.7   .350   .214   .200  .219
Fourth Quarter     23    75.5   .237   .167   .421  .089
--------------------------------------------------------
FIRST HALF         49   102.6   .476   .217   .238  .148
SECOND HALF        45    77.1   .295   .261   .308  .082
========================================================
FINAL              93    91.7   .389   .200   .272  .151
========================================================

CHICAGO BULLS Poss oRTG eFG% oREB% FT/FGA TO% First Quarter 22 131.8 .667 .167 .048 .091 Second Quarter 27 131.1 .674 .167 .174 .112 Third Quarter 23 135.6 .705 .111 .000 .087 Fourth Quarter 23 102.1 .475 .182 .200 .133 -------------------------------------------------------- FIRST HALF 49 131.4 .670 .167 .114 .106 SECOND HALF 45 119.0 .595 .103 .095 .057 ======================================================== FINAL 93 127.3 .634 .156 .105 .108 ========================================================

Let me repeat the quarter by quarter eFG% for Chicago: .667, .674, .705, .475. (Don't get too excited about that last number. The entire fourth quarter was an extended garbage time.) Folks, that's just poor effort by New York. The Bulls entered the game ranked 28th in eFG% on the season. There primary issue is that their offense is built around the two-point jump shot, a surefire recipe for inefficiency. Not enough free throws, not enough three-pointers. Last night, the lane opened up like the Grand Canyon for the Bulls and they feasted on shots at the rim.

My takeaways from Tuesday's game:

1. Rose is still a Rose
This was Derrick Rose's first real game action since hurting his hip and lower back in a spill against the Magic on Feb. 10. He played in the All-Star game, but missed the Skills Competition and sat out Chicago's practice on Monday. He looked fit as a fiddle against the Knicks, putting up one of his best shooting nights of the season. Rose scored 29 points on 14-of-18 shooting, going past Chris Duhon at will and shooting over Jared Jeffries. D'Antoni said the strategy was to force Rose to take jumpers (not an original idea), but it actually appeared to me that Duhon wasn't giving him enough cushion. Meanwhile, Jeffries was giving him too much. Perhaps Jeffries felt like he could bother the shot with his long reach even laying well off of Rose, but it didn't work. Rose sat out the fourth quarter with the Bulls far ahead. Vinny Del Negro reported after the game that he was a little sore and it was conceivable, but not likely, that the hip could limit his time in Wednesday's return match in New York.

2. A Jannero Pargo sighting!
Since the first game of the season, I've been befuddled as to why Pargo doesn't get more consistent minutes from Del Negro. Pargo is a streaky shooter who can carry an offense for limited stretches when he's hot. He's also an energetic player that can infuse pace to a game that lacks it, as he did during his 18 minutes against the Knicks. Pargo scored 12 points--just the eighth time he's hit double figures this season. After the game, Del Negro said, "J.P. has kind of been the odd man out this year, and to be honest, I don't think I've done a very good job with him." Well said. On Wednesday morning, the Chicago Tribune reported that Pargo had requested a trade from Chicago and the Bulls were doing everything they could to grant his wish. Pargo is a class guy with little kid-like enthusiasm, and he can heat up an offense from time to time. Teams could do worse.

3. Why not Al Harrington?
Harrington's name has been part of many trade rumors of late. In fact, he seems like he's on the block just about every year at this time. Most of the rumors I've read refer to him as just another expiring contract for a team looking to clear cap space. He is that. However, you don't hear much about teams looking for a stretch four (Cleveland, for instance) going after Harrington to fill out a playoff-ready roster. Am I missing something? I've never been a huge fan of Harrington, but he can score. He can shoot--his .313 mark from three-point range this season has limited his value for the Knicks, but it's also the kind of thing that can bounce back. He's a solid rebounder, not great on defense and can swing between both forward positions. After the season, you can wipe your hands of him. In Cleveland's case, Harrington's contract is very close to Zydrunas Ilgauskas' deal, though that'd surely just be a starting point. Anyway, there's enough speculation going about these days, and this isn't a scenario I've seen mentioned. I'm just not sure why.

4. The Knicks' interior defense is nil
According to HoopData.com, only three teams allow a higher frequency of shots at the rim than the Knicks. Just five teams have a lower block rate. Just five teams allow more offensive rebounds. This all suggests that the Knicks need to improve their interior defense and that's not likely to happen with David Lee playing center. I love Lee's game and whether it's the Knicks or someone else, he's going to be a key part of some team's roster next season. Let's just hope it's not as a center.

5. The Tyrus Tease
In what was likely Tyrus Thomas' second-to-last game with the Bulls, he came off the bench to score 11 points on six shots in 30 minutes, adding eight rebounds, two assists, three steals and three blocks. It was all the best that Thomas has to offer, which seems to emerge when he doesn't fancy himself an offensive machine and just does the dirty work. For all of his sulking, which has cost him practices and games, Thomas doesn't generally carry that over to his demeanor on the court. He was diving after loose balls with the Bulls up by 25 points in the second half. It's easy to see why several teams are eager to take him off the Bulls' hands. However, it's also easy to understand why the Bulls will be glad to see him go. You just never know what you're going to get.

You can go back and read my in-game comments and get future Tweets at @bdoolittle.

Join Bradford as well as Kevin Pelton, Anthony Macri and Hoopdata.com's Tom Haberstroh to discuss the NBA trade deadline live this Thursday starting at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Bradford by clicking here or click here to see Bradford's other articles.

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