NEW YORK — If the Chicago Bulls fail to make the playoffs, they can point at two back-to-back losses late in the season against the New York Knicks as a major reason.
The Knicks, a sub-.500 team for the last two months, completed a home-and-home sweep of the Bulls with a 106-94 win Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
New York (30-43) defeated the Bulls 115-107 in Chicago on Wednesday. New York has a chance to play the spoiler role in the remaining three weeks of the regular season.
The two losses cramp the Bulls’ run for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Chicago (36-35) fell 1 1/2 games behind the Detroit Pistons in the race for eighth place.
“I’ve never been so frustrated and mad before,” said Chicago’s Taj Gibson, who scored 10 points. “It was real disappointing.
“We’re playing against teams that aren’t playing for anything and we’re just laying down.”
Carmelo Anthony paced the Knicks with 26 points, and rookie forward Kristaps Porzingis scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Derrick Williams added 13 points, and Jose Calderon chipped in with 12 points.
For the second night in a row, New York out-rebounded Chicago 45-34.
“We had a good practice before went to Chicago,” said Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis. “They did a good job in both ballgames of getting organized and getting to spots on the floor, getting their spacing so they can kind of see what’s going on.
“Their (Knicks) ability to move the basketball allows them to have a good inside-out ballgame.”
Derrick Rose poured in 30 points for the Bulls, who were without forward Pau Gasol, who was resting his swollen right knee. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said he hopes to have Gasol back for Saturday’s game against the Orlando Magic, another team behind the Bulls in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks controlled the game from early in the first quarter. Chicago trailed by double digits for most of the second half. It’s only lead was 8-7.
“They (Bulls) struggled shooting the ball from the outside and I would like to think our defense had something to do with that,” observed Rambis. “Their (Bulls) legs were tired as well, plus we’re a pretty good rebounding team as well.”
The Knicks went up by a game-high 17 points, 100-83, on Anthony’s 3-pointer with 3:29 left and the Bulls never recovered, failing to get closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
A three-quarter alley-oop pass from Calderon to Williams pushed the Knicks to a 90-74 lead, their largest to that point, with 7:29 to play.
A jumper from Porzingis, a reverse layup from Arron Afflalo and a 3-pointer from Calderon opened the Knicks’ advantage to 71-57 with 2:47 left in the third quarter after the Bulls missed four shots in a row.
Anthony and Porzingis deposited 12 points each in the first half to put the Knicks ahead 53-45 at the break. Rose scored six consecutive points to bring the Bulls within 38-35 with 6:02 left in the half.
Chicago struggled through a poor shooting first half, hitting just one of 12 3-point attempts.
After shooting 55 percent from the floor in the first quarter, the Bulls missed their first eight shots of the second quarter and fell behind 36-27 before Nikola Mirotic’s put-back dunk at the 8:44 mark.
For the game, Chicago made six of 25 3-point tries, while New York sank 13 of 30. The Knicks hit 51.3 percent of their field-goal attempts while limiting the Bulls to 41.6 percent shooting.
NOTES: The Bulls play eight of their final 12 games on the road. … The Knicks played the back end final of 17 back-to-backs this season, finishing 8-9. … Bulls rookie F Cristiano Felicio was making only his second start of the season. He scored six points in 21 minutes. … Chicago has lost 170 games due to injury or illness this season. Last year, the Bulls missed 148 total. … G Tony Wroten (right knee rehabilitation) and F Lance Thomas (strained left MCL) were out for the Knicks. … C Robin Lopez is the only Knicks player to start all 73 games. … The Bulls have made at least 10 3-pointers 16 times this season. That is the second-most in franchise history since the 3-point line was incorporated in 1979-80. They made just 6 of 25 on Thursday.