The Chicago Bulls made it 10 wins in 11 games and handed the New York Knicks their sixth straight defeat, pouring more water on the fireworks that accompanied the emergence of point guard Jeremy Lin last month.
The Bulls, who lead the National Basketball Association with a 35-9 record, won 104-99 at the United Center in Chicago last night. New York, which is winless this month and has lost six straight games on the road, dropped to 18-24.
“It’s a hard situation to be in right now,” New York’s leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony, told reporters. “Losing basketball games the way we’re losing, it’s kind of hard to stay upbeat.”
New York won its first seven games after Harvard University graduate Lin began running the offense on Feb. 4. His play boosted national interest in the Knicks, creating the phenomenon known as Linsanity. Since then, the Knicks are 3-9, leaving them in danger of missing the playoffs. The current stretch ties the team’s longest-losing streak this season.
The loss dropped the Knicks into a tie for the eighth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with the Milwaukee Bucks, who won 105-99 against the New Jersey Nets last night to improve to 18-24.
“We’re a much better team than being the eighth seed,” forward Amar’e Stoudemire said. “We don’t feel great about our position.”
The Knicks are 5-9 since Stoudemire returned from a four-game absence to mourn the death of his brother, and 2-8 since Anthony recovered from a groin injury.
Anthony and Stoudemire sat out the fourth quarter of a home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers two days ago, after which fans booed the Knicks off the court and chanted for coach Mike D’Antoni to be fired.
Six of the seven games New York won during its undefeated run in February came against teams with losing records. In the 12 subsequent games, eight opponents have had winning records. During the win streak, Lin averaged 24.4 points. Since then, his average is 18 points.
Lin didn’t play in a 105-102 defeat to Chicago at Madison Square Garden in New York on Feb. 2 when Derrick Rose led the visitors with 32 points and 13 assists. Last night, Rose had 32 points and seven assists.
New York led by two points after the first and second quarters last night, during which there were seven lead changes. There were another 11 lead changes in the third, with the Bulls opening a seven-point lead halfway through the quarter and the Knicks recovering to trail by one entering the final period.
After Chicago pushed its lead to 99-90 with 54 seconds remaining, Tyson Chandler scored on a layup and Anthony added a 3-pointer on his second field-goal attempt of the quarter.
The Knicks wouldn’t get any closer, as Lin finished with 15 points and eight assists. Stoudemire, who scored 34 points and had 11 rebounds against Chicago last month, scored 20 points, while Anthony contributed 21.
New York hosts the Portland Trail Blazers (20-21) tomorrow and the Indiana Pacers (23-16) two days later. Chicago tomorrow hosts the Miami Heat (31-9) before facing Portland at home on March 16.