CHICAGO — There are road woes — long travel, unwelcoming crowds and difficult schedules — and then there’s what the Knicks are going through now. Let’s go ahead and call these road crises.
That’s what it means to make up a 13-point deficit and then score 10 points in the final two minutes of regulation, only to see your hopes of winning spin around the rim and skitter out.
That’s what it means to drop to 1-8 on the road.
And that’s what it means to experience what the Knicks did at the United Center on Saturday night, when they played the worst team in the NBA and looked overmatched. They lost to the Bulls, 104-102, dropping the Knicks to 12-13 and lifting Chicago to 5-20.
“The only way you win on the road in this league is to play all 48 minutes,” a frustrated Jeff Hornacek said afterward. “We came out at the start of the game not ready to play . . . There’s no excuse for that.”
After a lackluster first half, the Knicks turned it on in the dwindling minutes of play. They fell behind by 10 points with 2:02 left, but Courtney Lee’s driving reverse layup with 30 seconds remaining drew them within two. Then Lee found Kristaps Porzingis, whose jumper from the elbow with 5.4 seconds left tied it at 102.
But the Bulls’ Kris Dunn, fouled by Lee, hit two free throws with 2.9 seconds left and Porzingis’ potential game-winner hit the rim as the buzzer sounded.
“I had a great look at the three-point line,” Porzingis said. “It felt good. It [fell] short.”
Porzingis led the Knicks with 23 points. Nikola Mirotic had 19 points for the Bulls, Dunn added 17 points and nine assists and David Nwaba scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks took small leads in the third quarter, and Damyean Dotson’s floating jumper tied it at 78 with 8:38 left in the game. But Mirotic’s three-pointer stemmed the tide as the Bulls went on an 18-9 run.
“I think there’s no excuse,’’ said Enes Kanter, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds. “If you look at the whole game, we just didn’t play with a lot of energy, intensity.”
In truth, a loss to Chicago hurt the Knicks in more ways than one. The Knicks obtained the Bulls’ second-round draft pick from the Thunder as part of the transaction that sent Carmelo Anthony to Oklahoma City. Thus, every Bulls loss makes that a better selection.
Draft position isn’t something that concerns Knicks general manager Scott Perry right now, though. Checking in with reporters at the quarter mark of the season, Perry characterized “institutionalized losing” — the kind that gets you a lottery pick — as something of a disease and something he said the Knicks will avoid even if things aren’t looking so keen around March or so.
“I just believe it’s important to compete hard, do the very best that you can and then organically, let the amount of wins and losses come out of that versus trying to put your team in a position not to win,” he said. “I don’t think that’s healthy for any culture because I think if you try to quote, unquote institutionalize losing, if you will, that’s hard to get out of your building. You might never get that out of your building. We want to do the very best we can and we’ll live with the results.”