By Benjy Lipsman in News on Apr 12, 2007 1:04PM
Remember when the Bulls-Knicks rivalry meant tough, nail-biting games with playoff ramifications? Games with Jordan and Pippen, Ewing and Starks? Seemed as if every one of those games were decided in the final two minutes of the game.
But when the Bulls and Knicks squared off at the United Center Tuesday evening, the game was pretty much over by the end of the first quarter, with the Bulls leading 23-10. They proceeded to extend that lead in every quarter on their way to a 98-69 win.
By the noise the raucous crowd made in the final two minutes — in spite of half having left already — they clearly wanted their free Big Macs. All the Bulls needed to do was reach the century mark, and the crowd would win a free sandwich.
But did the Bulls run up the score trying to treat the crowd to a free lunch? That's the accusation from Knicks' guard Steve Francis.
OK, so the Bulls actually took some shots in the fourth quarter. Not one starter played one second in the period. They did not score a single point in the final 1:42 of the game. There is such thing as the 24-second clock in the NBA, so at some point a team's supposed to shoot.
Responding to the accusations, Bulls GM John Paxson questioned:
We have a 24-second shot clock and as long as a team has possession of the ball and that clock is on, those players have a responsibility to play the game. Were our players supposed to kick the ball in the stands or hand it to the New York players and let them shoot layups so the game could be closer?
And while the Bulls did take shots down the stretch — again, were they supposed to kick it into the stands? — they were mostly playground-style hotshot attempts by bench players. Guys who don't get very many minutes were just having a little fun, and not exactly trying too hard. And maybe they fed off the crowd's lust for two all-beef patties just a little? So what? For the Knicks, a loss is a loss whether by one point or by thirty. And the Bulls fans need energy — after all, we've got a playoff run to get ready for.
Image via NBAApparel.com.