NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 16: Elfrid Payton #6 of the New York Knicks reacts to a call in the second half against the Phoenix Suns at Madison Square Garden on January 16, 2020 in New York City.The Phoenix Suns defeated the New York Knicks 121-98.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The New York Knicks sought to get back in the win column on the back end of a back-to-back against the Chicago Bulls in the Windy City.

On Monday, the now last-place New York Knicks wasted a fourth-quarter comeback and lost to the Chicago Bulls 110-102. Wednesday, New York had the chance to split the two-game tilt and hoped for a better performance from all involved.

This had the makings of a chippy game from the start. Coach Tom Thibodeau facing off against the Bulls, a team he once coached. On the Chicago side stood coach Billy Donovan, who briefly played for the Knicks in the ’80s.

Moreover, the Bulls clearly entered this two-game set feeling cocky, maybe because a miniseries about when they were actually good recently aired. Seriously, The Last Dance happens and now the Knicks-Bulls rivalry is back on? Were the Detroit Pistons not worth their time?

Anyway, before we go off the rails and get into the “Is deep-dish actually pizza?” debate, let’s recap the game.


1st quarter: Splish Splash

New York just got nearly two feet of snow, perfect circumstances for a Polar Bear Plunge. Unfortunately, between the New York Knicks being in Chicago and the pandemic, we couldn’t make that happen this year, not even in freezing cold Lake Michigan.

Instead, the Knicks chose to celebrate the wintry conditions with their strongest first quarter in what seems like months. New York shot 55.6% from the field and an eye-popping 80% from three. Julius Randle had three triples of his own and led the Knicks with 11 points in the quarter.

However, the star early on was the ever streaky Elfrid Payton. Tonight, the good version of him showed up and he had 10 points with seven rebounds in the first quarter.

Chicago, meanwhile, couldn’t get in a rhythm and trailed 34-17 after one.



Halftime report: Welcome to RJ’s house

Another game, another example of how RJ Barrett is the future of the New York Knicks. Barrett sat out half of the second quarter, but returned full speed ahead to score eight points before halftime. In the first half, he scored 14 points on 11 shots.

Meanwhile, the Knicks were in a great flow and led 63-52 at halftime. Three players scored in double figures, with Randle’s 15 leading the way. It was just great team basketball across the board, proof that this Knicks team can succeed when it communicates.

Oh, and the Chicago Bulls? They found a rhythm on offense, but still shot just 22.2% from three.



 3rd quarter: Teamwork

The Bulls’ three-point woes continued, and the New York Knicks never really got on a big run this quarter either. They only outscored Chicago 28-24 in the third.

Yet, the story of the third was just good, old-fashioned teamwork. The Knicks stayed in sync and saw seven different players score in the quarter.

New York led 91-76 after three, with victory in sight so long as the team held focus.



4th quarter: New York groove

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ace Frehley!

Alright, fine. So maybe the New York Knicks didn’t quite earn the fanfare of the former KISS lead guitarist’s Big Apple anthem. The Bulls outscored them 27-16 and Knicks’ fans collective blood pressure spiked in the fourth quarter.

But even so, the Knicks’ held their lead and pulled off the 107-103 victory. Reggie Bullock’s corner three swung the momentum back in New York’s favor, and both Payton and Randle sunk key baskets down the stretch.

The game was a full reminder that New York vs. Chicago still carries the intensity of Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed, and New York won this round.


Player of the game: Elfrid Payton

Randle may have led the Knicks with 27 points, but Elfrid Payton was the man of the hour tonight. He scored 20 points on 19 shots and also added eight rebounds with four assists. For all the games he looks absolutely lost, his few “on” nights are most welcome whenever they pop up.

Oh, and to settle the debate earlier, deep dish is most certainly not pizza.



Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.