Dunn deal: Bulls hold off Knicks
CHICAGO — Like the rest of his Chicago Bulls teammates, Kris Dunn couldn’t find an offensive rhythm Wednesday, at least for long stretches.
However, in a season in which the rebuilding Bulls are refusing to let adversity stop them, Dunn didn’t allow his shooting struggles to keep him from making a difference.
Dunn scored 17 points and hit a pair of free throws with 7.8 seconds remaining, and the Bulls rallied to beat the New York Knicks 92-87 on Wednesday.
Lauri Markkanen finished with 12 points and Robin Lopez added 11 points for Chicago, which has won nine of its past 11 games. Justin Holiday, who capped the victory with two free throws in the closing seconds, also scored 11 points.
Following a 3-20 start, the Bulls (12-22) have played their way to respectability by finding ways to win despite not performing their best.
“If we don’t start the game well, we find a way to play together and take our time, do what we’re supposed to do on the floor, get back to playing the basics and getting the stops and winning the game,” Holiday said. “We did that today.”
Markkanen, who shot just 5 of 15 from the floor, hit a jumper to give the Bulls an 88-86 lead with 39 seconds left after Holiday tied the game at 86 on a 3-pointer with 3:01 remaining. David Nwaba failed to extend the lead when he missed a pair of free throws with 24.9 seconds to go, but Jarrett Jack could only get the Knicks to within a point when he split a pair of free throws.
After Dunn pushed the lead to three points with his free throws, Enes Kanter — who grabbed 11 rebounds for New York — missed a 3-point attempt as the Bulls held on for yet another closely contested victory.
“We’re starting to jell,” Dunn said. “We’re starting to understand each and everybody’s game and what coach (Fred Hoiberg) wants from us.”
Lopez added: “We’re constantly picking each other up, which is huge.”
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said the team originally set up for Doug McDermott to take the potential game-tying shot, but New York could not set a screen to free McDermott for an open attempt.
Kristaps Porzingis led New York (17-17) with 23 points, while Courtney Lee had 17 and Jack contributed 11. The Knicks, who managed only 14 points in the fourth quarter, lost their third consecutive game.
“This is a disappointing loss,” Hornacek said. “I thought we had a chance to really get a giant lead there in the second quarter. ... You have to take advantage when you have opportunities, and we didn’t.”
The Bulls got within 73-71 to start the fourth quarter behind Dunn, who scored 11 points in the third. Chicago trailed by as many as 10 points early in the third but made a run to get within a basket on a Jerian Grant jumper.
But Dunn, who finished the night 6 of 18 from the field, sparked the Bulls’ resurgence after Chicago fell behind by as many as 15 points in the second quarter.
The Bulls — who used a 15-2 run before the end of the first half to trail by only three at halftime — never relented.
“We came out a little sluggish and we found a way to finally get over the hump,” Hoiberg said. “Defensively, I thought we were locked in. We were getting stops. ... I’m proud of the guys for finding a way to get a big win.”
NOTES: Knicks G Tim Hardaway Jr. is making “consistent progress” in his rehab of a lower leg stress injury, but his return date remains unknown, the team announced Wednesday. Hardaway has been sidelined since Dec. 3 and has increased his on-court activities, including jumping. He will be re-evaluated weekly, coach Jeff Hornacek said Wednesday morning. ... Knicks F Joakim Noah, who played nine years for the Bulls, was again inactive Wednesday. Noah has been inactive for all but four games since he returned from a drug suspension in November. ... Beginning Wednesday, the Knicks will play 14 of their next 17 games on the road. ... Bulls G Zach LaVine (torn ACL) went through with a full practice with the Bulls’ G League affiliate on Tuesday and is continuing his stretch of practicing six straight days. LaVine is still slated to return to game action sometime in January.