Bulls hand Knicks franchise-record 60th loss in 111-80 romp
CHICAGO (AP) The Chicago Bulls did what so many other teams have done against the Knicks this season: They made it look easy.
They handed New York its franchise-record 60th loss, too.
Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points, Pau Gasol added 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Chicago pounded the Knicks 111-80 Saturday night.
''There's nothing I can really say about that,'' New York's Langston Galloway said. ''All I can control is playing hard.''
A night after tying the team's previous single-season loss mark, the Knicks dropped their seventh straight and 14th in 16 games.
Jimmy Butler scored 18 for Chicago.
Mirotic closed out a terrific March with another strong showing, finishing five points shy of his career high. The rookie averaged 20.8 points in 15 games this month.
Gasol recorded his league-leading 48th double-double as Chicago won for the fifth time in six games.
''I think our mindset at this point is we're building toward something, we have more than enough right now,'' Mike Dunleavy Jr. said. ''When (the injured) Derrick (Rose) gets back, it's a bonus. We're pulling for him.''
The Bulls, who have battled injuries all year, appear to be clicking even though their superstar point guard is recovering from his latest knee surgery.
They led by 20 at halftime and fell four points short of their most lopsided victory of the season. They pulled within two games of Central Division leader Cleveland and moved 1 1/2 games ahead of fourth-place Toronto in the Eastern Conference.
Andrea Bargnani led New York with 14 points and seven rebounds. But with their crisp ball movement and an attacking mentality, the Bulls overwhelmed the Knicks.
They had 28 assists compared to 14 turnovers, hit 43 of 84 shots and outscored New York 50-22 in the paint.
''The biggest mindset is just to not give up,'' the Knicks' Cole Aldrich said. ''We still have some basketball to play. We can't all forget the opportunity that's ahead of us. We haven't had the season that we wanted to, but it doesn't mean we can't go out and finish strong.''
Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the ''Double Nickel Game'' that saw Michael Jordan score 55 points at Madison Square Garden, a masterpiece that announced he still was the game's greatest player after two years away from basketball. He finished off that game with an assist to Bill Wennington, giving the Bulls a 113-111 victory.
In this one, Chicago stomped on the Knicks almost as soon as they stepped on the court.
Gasol scored 11 in the first quarter and 13 in the half as the Bulls grabbed a 54-34 lead. Mirotic hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 in the half, while Butler and Aaron Brooks each scored 10.
The Bulls led 28-17 after hitting 12 of 21 shots in the first quarter and they put this one away after the Knicks closed within eight with 7 1/2 minutes remaining in the second. Chicago outscored New York 19-7 the rest of the half to turn a 35-27 edge to a 20-point gulf at the break.
''I think we're getting there,'' Gasol said. ''We can't get too complacent. We can't get satisfied by a few good games. We just need to continue because the challenges are going to come and they're going to come quickly.''
Knicks: The 1962-63, 1985-86, 2005-06 and 2007-08 teams lost 59 games. ... F Travis Wear (sore lower back) remains day to day.
Bulls: Coach Tom Thibodeau said a nine-man rotation in the playoffs is possible if the Bulls are healthy. But he acknowledged that's a big ''if.'' ''That's been our question mark all year,'' he said. Only 19 times this season have the Bulls had their projected starting five in the lineup, and they're waiting for Rose to return from a minor operation on his right knee. Thibodeau said the former MVP point guard is doing ''just about everything'' in practice except taking contact. ... F Doug McDermott (sore back) sat out the game.
HE SAID IT
Gasol, on what Knicks coach Derek Fisher, his teammate with the Lakers, is going through: ''It must be a struggle for someone that was such a successful basketball player for so many years.''
Knicks: Host Brooklyn on Wednesday.
Bulls: Visit Milwaukee on Wednesday.