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Julius Randle's 34 points wasted as Knicks fall in Chicago

New York Knicks' Julius Randle (30) goes up

New York Knicks' Julius Randle (30) goes up for a shot against Chicago Bulls' Javonte Green (24) and Zach LaVine (8) during the first half of a NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty) Credit: AP/Paul Beaty

CHICAGO — There were the obligatory cheers for Tom Thibodeau when he was introduced pregame and a standing ovation for Derrick Rose when he entered the game for the first time at United Center on Sunday night. But by the end of the game, the crowd was sending the Knicks off with expletive-laden chants.

The words didn’t hurt as much as the result, a 109-103 loss to the Chicago Bulls that served as a troublesome hint of what could come for the Knicks.

Despite their recent woes, they entered the night somehow still sitting in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. But they have lost seven of their last 11 games, and they’ll be put to the test in the days to come.

The Knicks had managed to survive a night earlier against the NBA-worst Rockets, but anything less than their best wasn’t going to get it done against the Bulls, who moved into a tie with the Nets atop the Eastern Conference at 12-5.

Julius Randle had 34 points for the Knicks (9-8) in what amounted to a one-man show, but it wasn’t enough to counter DeMar DeRozan’s 31 points and Zach LaVine’s 21.

After falling behind 15-4, the Knicks brought a 74-72 lead into the fourth quarter but were outscored 37-29.

"Fourth quarter," Randle said. "Thirty-seven points . . . It’s just like that sometimes. I thought our effort was good."

Randle was 13-for-19 from the floor but had little help. RJ Barrett grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds but shot 2-for-12 and had only nine points. Evan Fournier (three points) shot 1-for-7, and this time, the bench couldn’t bail them out.

"We’re just searching," Thibodeau said. "I thought they gave us a good lift to start the third, I thought our starters played well to start the third. That was important. We went with the group, got a little surge there at the end of the third, start of the fourth. Tried to ride that as much as we could."

After playing three sub-.500 teams this past week, the Knicks now face a brutal stretch of the schedule.

They will host the Lakers and Suns this week before heading to Atlanta for the second half of a back-to-back set, followed by a game in Brooklyn and home games against Chicago and Denver.

"You’re always challenged in the league," Thibodeau said. "Back-to-back for us, come in and we’re playing a team that’s playing well. Fight like crazy, be in position to win, then we’ve got to find a way to close it out. We didn’t get it done. But we’ll take the positives, take a look at what we need to improve on and get ready for the next game."

After Coby White and Derek Jones Jr. began the fourth quarter with three-pointers, the Bulls were up 78-74 and the Knicks were calling timeout.

White hit his third three-pointer of the fourth quarter for a 91-84 lead and the Knicks called timeout again, this time bringing Randle back into the game.

With five minutes remaining, Randle fed Alec Burks for a three-pointer, cutting the Chicago lead to 93-91.

Immanuel Quickley hit a three-pointer with 4:17 left, but the 24-second shot clock had expired before he let it go, leaving the Knicks down by three. LaVine then hit a jumper on the other end.

Burks, who had bailed them out Saturday with a 17-point fourth quarter , threw up an air ball from three-point range with 2:33 to play and the Bulls ahead by four. Randle was called for a foul against DeRozan and Thibodeau challenged the call. The call stood and DeRozan hit a pair of free throws for a 100-94 lead.

Down by six still, Randle followed a missed shot and drew the sixth foul on Alec Caruso with 1:38 left, bringing the Knicks back within one possession. But LaVine answered again, driving through traffic for a layup.

On the Knicks’ next two possessions, Randle misfired in the lane and Quickley threw up an air ball. A foul put LaVine on the line again and he provided the finishing touches with a pair of free throws for a 106-99 lead with 28.4 seconds to play.

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