Bernstein: Bulls-Knicks Playoff Matchup Could Be Fun

By Dan Bernstein- Senior Columnist

(CBS) I’ll forgive the “playoff atmosphere” comments about the Bulls and Knicks Sunday.

Though the term is more often employed to lend size and gravitas to yet another mundane NBA affair, I have to say the broadcasters were onto something: a gorgeous early afternoon in Chicago, sunny and warm, and we’re gathered with family and friends inside, around the television.

Some of us digesting matzah, some of us peeking at the ham in the oven, and everybody in familiar postseason positions for a matinee. Atmosphere is local.

The return of Derrick Rose, the game’s wild emotional swings, and a star turn by Carmelo Anthony set to the classical score of the MSG organ – its churchlike thrum punctuating the action in a basketball shrine – made for something other than one of this year’s typically-uninspiring nights.

If the standings hold, here’s your first-round matchup, fans.

The Bulls are better, make no mistake. Derrick Rose had a brutal game, missing shots and failing to protect the ball in his return to action, and we have to give him the benefit of the doubt as he continues to recover, even as some of us fear setbacks or something less than full explosiveness and ability from here on in.

No need to be too concerned about the outcome, really, since one made free-throw at the end of regulation flips the script. What is interesting, though, is how a coaching change and injuries brought out aspects of the Knicks that change the way the Bulls may perceive them as an opponent.

Mike Woodson believes in defense and toughness, clearly. This team is playing a far more physical game on both ends of the floor, as evidenced by an inspired Tyson Chandler destroying a wilting Joakim Noah. If he plays like that, he’s a handful – his hard screens taking a toll, and swatted back-taps providing key second-chances.

Iman Shumpert is a better player than Jeremy Lin, and his length and athleticism mean he can spend time guarding Rose. I’ll take Imania over Linsanity. JR Smith was his same, silly self, taking long shots with no regard to score or situation, but he won’t be 2-for-11 with those same looks most nights.

With Amare Stoudamire still out, there was no denying Anthony the multiple isolations on which he thrives. Despite the avalanche of criticism he’s received this year, he remains a deadly, creative, powerful scorer. The playoffs are about stars, and he’s a star. There’s no rest for an already-tired Luol Deng in a series guarding this guy.

Here was a perfect time for a purportedly-healthy Rip Hamilton to be that second scoring option to take the pressure off Rose, but that’s just not happening, with his game too scheme-specific to function properly with Rose in need situations. Hamilton is actually a primary scorer, requiring single-double sets and baseline-chases, with Rose trying to get him the ball. He provides little chance to break from the 1-4 arrangements and high screen-rolls that make up the sum total of late-game Bulls offense.

Kyle Korver can’t get his own shot, and has to be shuttled in and out for Ronnie Brewer in offense/defense substitutions, as Carlos Boozer must with Taj Gibson. Tom Thibodeau is still mixing and matching parts around Rose, trying to find something else that works. And as long as Noah is on the floor – and especially when he is the screener – Rose can expect to be guarded by Noah’s man as well.

These teams meet again Tuesday, and we’ll get another look at what could be some meaty stuff in three weeks or so. David Stern can only dream of a first-round series between such strong brands in huge markets.

On a weekend of traditional religious feasts, it was a game that actually gave us something to chew on.

bernstein 90x130 Bernstein: Bulls Knicks Playoff Matchup Could Be Fun

Dan Bernstein

Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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  • Larry Horse's Arse

    NBA Playoffs are a total blast…this match-up would be lotsa fun.

    What? No mention of Tebow’s Sermon on the Hill today?

    Can you believe we ran out of matzoh?

  • nwfisch

    Nope. This series will suck you kool-aid drinking homer dope idiot moron.

  • papa_g

    nwfisch – your gay

  • Terry Boers Sock Puppet's Sock Puppet

    So now regular season games mean something? Stick with a story Bernstein.

  • Hub's lost earring and 'stache

    zzzzzzzzzzzz….wake us up when the 2nd round starts.

  • Walmart Wanderer

    What floor are tires on?

  • Just One Red-Hot Jack Brickhouse Minute


  • Sam

    Why do feel the need to set such a pointless scene in this article… the actual structure and purpose of this article is not worth the paper is printed on (HAHA)…. Seriously after weeks and weeks of talking about how regular season games mean nothing you NOW think that this single game when Derrick is just barely back on his feet is an indicator of something? This whole thing seems like an exercise in contradiction-going against the grain to go against the grain. Dan Bernstein this was a bad Column. You are such a smart sports guy why do you feel the need to flex your nuts all over your listeners then brake the same rules you lay down for them. You must know most of the people who listen to your radio show are complete Morons who like to reword and recycle your thoughts to anyone who will listen. This stuff confuses them-
    I enjoy your sports ideas to reflect my own thoughts off of. To me this is just another example of you’r growing disconnect between the people you talk down to every day on the radio. Like i said your very smart but someone so smart shouldn’t do something as stupid as believe because he is on the radio he is smarter then everyone else.

  • Toby Tyler

    Bern, how’s that Rogaine working for you??

  • Jake from da burbs

    So… just a question… if the Bulls come back and beat the snot out of the Knicks on Tuesday, what will the Sunday win mean? Nothing! Even if the Bulls lose on Tuesday, it means nothing.

    The only significance any loss has to any opponent going forward is the blowing of an opportunity to have home court… if thats even important.

    Whether its the Knicks, Bucks or 76ers, none of them scare me in the first round. The next 8-9 games or so are all about staying healthy, gelling offensively and defensively with everyone healthy and if the opportunity presents, trying to secure home court… although I really think there might be less pressure if the Bulls didn’t have home court. I think they play of the role of disrespected underdogs better…

    • Danielo

      I’m starting to agree with you there about how the Bulls need to be in the underdog role, but not at the price of home court advantage in a potential Miami rematch, cuz they’ll be underdogs in that series anyways.

  • gowhistledixie

    only Dan and hamsters in the hamster wheel care . livin in the past glory forever.


    While it was a playoff-style atmosphere yesterday between the Bulls & Knicks, there are 2 things that should disturb head coach Tom Thibodeau. First, the Bulls were down as many as 21 in the 1st quarter and the Knicks seemed to have little trouble getting whatever they wanted early on. That can’t continue. Also, lost in the shuffle is that the Bulls also turned it over 19 times yesterday in NYC. Thibodeau was very bothered by that “t” word last Monday when the Bulls lost to the Rockets in another game they thought they were in control for a while. If there’s a silver lining, it’s this. The Bulls right now would play the slumping Sixers in a potential NBA Playoff opening round series if the season ended today, not April 26th, according to Still, these Bulls better get their acts together now that they’ve got their original starting 5 for hopefully the rest of this regular season and into the playoffs. These bad habits and slow starts need to stop…now.

    • Danielo

      I hear ya, man, no way a team like Miami lets them up off the mat if they come out as flat as they’ve been in some recent games…

  • Danielo

    It’s Thibs’s serve now for Tuesday night’s “rematch”, and I’m actually excited for this one to see if he takes a different approach to these Knicks. Just spit-ballin here, but I wonder how a small lineup of Rose, Watson, Hamilton, Deng, and Taj might work out? For one thing, it alleviates some of the late game pressure on Rose to create everything at the end of the game (the Rose-Watson backcourt even managed to frustrate Miami at times in the conference finals last year), and it could wear down Melo. If he has to chase Rip through screens for spurts of the 2nd half, his legs might just be that much heavier and maybe one or two of those clutch jumpers comes up short…

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