Bulls fall to Knicks in overtime
Wendell Cruz - USA Today Sports

Bulls fall to Knicks in overtime

by - Senior Writer -

NEW YORK - Although the 2023-24 season may not have gone as planned for the Chicago Bulls (39-43), they can at least say they ended the season on a high note and will not get set for the Play-in round of the NBA playoffs. That alone is a feat in itself, as this team started the year 4-15, so to be in the position they are in with how many injuries they have dealt with is a testament to what this team became as the season went on.

Heading into the Regular season finale against the New York Knicks (50-32) at Madison Square Garden, the Bulls had a chance to play spoiler, as the Knicks needed to win to lock down the No. 2 overall seed. With both teams calling on all of their players, the Bulls were locked in a tightly contested battle throughout, and one that saw them take a six-point lead entering the fourth.

Then came the fourth quarter, when the Bulls not only failed to close things out but nearly saw a last-second shot by the Knicks fall. 48 minutes weren't enough to decide a winner in this one. With Overtime set to close out the season, both teams had their moments, but it was the late-game miss from Demar DeRozan that proved costly. The Knicks escaped with a 120-119 OT win and clinched the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Although their record could have been better, the Bulls played the entire season without Lonzo Ball and half the season without Zach Lavine and Patrick Williams. That forced this team to change their identity as the season went on, and that is when things changed for the better. This was a team known for struggling to develop their players, but this season saw a lot of players develop, which could be huge for this team's future.

One of those players who took his game to the next level this season was Coby White, who ended the regular season on a strong note. White had struggled for about three weeks since injuring his hip, but his final four games had him returning to his midseason form, which the Bulls needed from him. With 26 points and four assists, White ends his season on a high note and will now look to lead this team into the playoffs.

While the young players took significant strides forward this season, Chicago was still led by their veteran leaders, DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, who ended the regular season on a strong note. Despite his age, DeRozan led the league in minutes played, which is tough to believe, and with 30 points to end the regular season, his days in Chicago could be limited. Vucevic has also picked a great time to snap out of a prolonged slump and has returned to what he does best the past few games. He added 29 points with 11 rebounds in the losing effort as he continues to show he has a little bit left in the tank offensively.

Chicago leaned on those three guys heavily, but with Alex Caruso coming away with 15 points and eight assists and Javonte Green adding 11 points, 111 of the team's 119 points came from the starting. That typically isn't a position you want to put your team in, but more often than not, when your starters have that many points, you are going to win most of your games.

This wasn't the case on Sunday, as the Knicks had more to play for than most people realized. Like the Bulls, most of the Knicks' production came from the starting five, starting with Jalen Brunson and his 40 points. When you look at sleeper MVP candidates, Brunson comes to mind, as he has quietly had a very good season. It has been his last few games against the Bulls when he really put his name on the map, as he averaged better than 40 points in the past three contests, which shows how valuable he is.

Brunson had the best day, but he wasn't alone as Donte DiVincenzo capped off the best season of his career. DiVincenzo has taken off the second half of the season, and with 25 points and seven boards, he continues to prove he has what it takes to be a big-time player in this league.

Rounding out the Knicks starting five, or at least the big-time contributors, were Josh Hart and his 12 points and OJ Anunoby with 11 points. Hart is credited with the game winning bucket for the Knicks as he followed up the miss from DiVincenzo and put it back to give New York a late three-point lead. While the Knicks bench didn't produce as much as they would like, they did get 13 points from Bojan Bogdanovich, as he will be an X-Factor for this team in the playoffs.

Chicago will now get a few days off before the play-in round begins, as they will host the Atlanta Hawks in the 9 vs. 10 matchup. The winner of that game will advance to face the loser of the 7 vs. 8 matchup, while the loser will see their season end.

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