Slumping Knicks, Bulls say not ready to roll over
By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - To many National Basketball Association (NBA) observers, the Eastern Conference race looms as a battle between the league's two-time defending champion Miami Heat (16-6) and emerging Indiana Pacers (19-3).
Not so fast, say the head coaches of two of the NBA's most underperforming, injury-sapped teams - the Chicago Bulls (8-12)and New York Knicks (6-15), who met on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
"It's a long season. Teams that have injuries now, they get healthy as they go along. Anything can happen at the end," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who played without four starters in a Tuesday loss to Cleveland and was only able to add Joakim Noah to his lineup against the Knicks.
Said Knicks coach Mike Woodson, whose center and defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler is sidelined with a broken leg and was also without point guard Raymond Felton (hamstring), "If we're healthy, I think we're a good team. I think we can compete at that level."
The Bulls, playing without Luol Deng (sore Achilles) and Jimmy Butler (toe) as well as former MVP Derrick Rose, gone again with another knee injury, fell behind by 23 points in the third quarter before turning up the defensive pressure and tying the game 74-74 before New York pulled out an 83-78 victory.
The win was sorely needed by the Knicks, whose last Garden performance was a 41-point drubbing by the rebuilding Boston Celtics and whose record over the first 20 games was the worst in franchise history.
"We so desperately needed a win tonight," said Woodson, who lamented playing without "a full deck" and whose job security has come into question during the Knicks' downward spiral.
"HOLD YOUR FIRE!" blared the Daily News back page. Continued...