(The Sports Xchange) - After a sluggish start, the New York Knicks regrouped and cruised to a relatively stress-free 107-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, with Carmelo Anthony scoring 13 of his 27 points during the opening quarter.
Anthony made 12 of 20 shots from the field and gave the Knicks the lead for good on a layup with 2:16 remaining.
He helped the Knicks maintain a lead for the final 38-plus minutes on a night when they shot 50 percent from the floor after the shaky start against an opponent who took four overtimes and nearly three-and-a-half hours to lose to Detroit on Friday.
“Not only did they play last night, to start the game off we weren’t communicating,” Anthony said.
Guard Arron Afflalo added 18 points, forward Lance Thomas contributed 13 and rookie forward Kristaps Porzingis had 10 for the Knicks, who improved to 14-14 and reached the break-even point for the fourth time.
“That’s what you use them for, to try and turn things around,” Afflalo said. “They got off to a great 12-2 start and we made the adjustment we needed.”
Joakim Noah made his first start at center for Chicago and scored a season-high 21 points. He started while Pau Gasol rested after playing 48 minutes in Friday’s four-overtime loss.
Rookie forward Bobby Portis added 20 points and guard Jimmy Butler added 12 for the Bulls. Butler was four of 11 from the field and, combined with Derrick Rose, Chicago’s starting backcourt was seven of 21 while the Bulls shot 39 percent and lost their third straight game.
“There is no doubt at that but you have to muster up the energy and fight through that and I don’t think we did a good job of that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.
“I just think from the jump it got out of hand,” Butler said. “(We) dug ourselves a hole. When we do that we normally don’t come out of that hole.”
The Knicks won their third straight game when they held a double-digit lead at some point and matched a season best with their fourth straight victory. They held the double-digit lead for most of the final three quarters against a fatigued opponent that did not arrive at its New York hotel until 4:15 a.m. EST.
Even with the appearance of an being in a favorable situation due to Friday’s events, the Knicks fell behind 12-2 2:57 into the game after allowing the Bulls to make two layups, two midrange jumpers and a three-pointer.
After the timeout, the Knicks gradually got back in the game and led for the final 38-plus minutes, taking the lead for good on a layup by Anthony with 2:16 left in the first.
“A team like Chicago, you can’t take the foot off the pedal with them,” Anthony said. “They are a very experienced team. They know how to apply pressure. We can’t take chances with them. I thought after those first couple of minutes we played great.”
“We knew we had to wake up,” Porzingis added. “That was the moment we got more aggressive. We realized they were here to play and at that moment we were a different team.”
For the most part, the Knicks kept their foot on the pedal, opening a seven-point lead after the first quarter and leading by 10 at halftime. New York was briefly threatened at the end of the third when a 3-pointer by Portis cut the lead to 77-68. The Knicks answered by scoring the first eight points of the fourth period.
They iced the game when Affalo’s 18-footer extended the cushion to 97-79 with 5:33 remaining.
“They came out and jumped on us right from the beginning,” Rose said. “We tried to fight our way back in it but they kept making big plays.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford