new york knicks
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks escape Chicago with a win after beating the Bulls 104-103

The New York Knicks are in first place in the Eastern Conference. Sure, it’s only five games into the season, but they looked like the real deal on Thursday night. The Chicago Bulls entered this game as the lone unbeaten in the East, but the Knicks came out on top.

New York almost choked away a 13-point lead in the final minutes but held on against all odds, winning 104-103. The Bulls did something similar against the Toronto Raptors on Monday night. Chalk it up to early-season growing pains.

Although this wasn’t a playoff game, it had the feel of one. New York’s best player — Julius Randle — was a shell of himself. His box-score stats look fantastic, but he struggled to find a rhythm all night long. The cherry on top of his nightmarish night came when he missed two free throws in the final seconds with the Knicks up one.

Fortunately for Randle, RJ Barrett had one of the best games of his career, scoring 20 points and playing solid defense. He put an exclamation point on his performance by locking up DeMar DeRozan on the final play. Barrett was tasked with guarding Zach LaVine and DeRozan for most of the game; he didn’t shy away from the challenge.

But it wasn’t just Barrett. New York’s balanced offensive attack featured five different players in double figures. Kemba Walker built on his breakout performance against the Sixers by scoring a team-high 21 points on 5-for-6 from deep.

Balance is the theme of this season so far. Randle and Evan Fournier were off their games against the Bulls. Barrett and Walker were there to pick up the slack.

It hasn’t been perfect for the Knicks through five games, but they are exactly where they want to be.

On a night where the Bulls honored Joakim Noah, the Knicks are having the last laugh. It’s fitting that Tom Thibodeau, Derrick Rose, and Taj Gibson would roll into Chicago and steal the show.

Other Knicks Notes

  • The Knicks are in a four-way tie for first place in the Eastern Conference (Bulls, Hornets, Wizards).
  • Immanuel Quickley continues to struggle. After shooting 1-for-7 from the floor and 0-for-4 from three, he’s at 9-for-30 FG (30%) and 5-for-20 3PT (25%).
  • Julius Randle fell one assist shy of a triple-double.
  • Taj Gibson, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic played together in college at USC.
  • New York travels south to play the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night (7 p.m. ET).