April 12, 2014

Kristaps Porzingis just missed doing something that a New York Knicks rookie hasn't accomplished since Patrick Ewing, but he may have another chance right away if the Chicago Bulls don't come up with a better game plan to slow him down.

The Knicks can sweep a home-and-home series and further damage the Bulls' playoff hopes on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Chicago (36-34) had a three-game win streak snapped with Wednesday's 115-107 loss to New York that capped a four-game homestand. Porzingis was the catalyst, matching his season high with 29 points.

"He led us out there tonight, we followed his lead," teammate Carmelo Anthony said.

Porzingis scored 17 first-half points on 7-of-9 shooting and is averaging 20.7 in his last three games. He was one point short of becoming the first Knicks rookie since Ewing to put up 30 points and 10 rebounds.

"I looked up at the scoreboard in the fourth quarter and saw how many (points) I had, but I didn't know about the record," Porzingis said. "I don't want to force up a shot just to break a record."

Chicago fell into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one game behind Indiana and Detroit. The Bulls were outrebounded 53-34 with no player having more than six.

"They outrebounded us by 19," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They just out-horsed us, out-toughed us all night long."

Star Jimmy Butler, held to seven points on 3-of-11 shooting, saw things differently. He is averaging 13.8 points on 36.4 percent shooting in six games since missing 14 of 15 games with a knee injury.

"He's supposed to say it's a team thing," Butler said. "I don't think right now, I know this is a team game, but if one of your so-called best players is not doing what their supposed to do, that's what is going to happen.

"You've seen the way I've been playing lately. It's sad. My teammates won't say it, my coaches won't say it."

Chicago insists that Butler is not having any issues with his knee now.

The Bulls wasted Nikola Mirotic's career-high nine 3-pointers and 35 points. Derrick Rose added 21 as Chicago trailed by as many as 22 points in the second half.

New York (29-43) ended a three-game slide as Anthony returned with 24 points after missing a game with a migraine. The Knicks now seek to win for the third time in 12 home games.

"It feels good to get this one on the back-to-back, home-and-home against the same team," Anthony said. "If you can win the first one, then you can go home and have that momentum in your favor."

Chicago has dropped nine of 10 on the road and plays eight of its final 12 there.

"I told them they've got two choices right now," Hoiberg said. "One's to tuck your tail between your legs and walk out of there with your head down or toughen up, suck it up and go find a way to get a win tomorrow and finish this thing out the right way."

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