White finds his touch just in time to lead Bulls past Knicks
It was almost exactly two years ago -- Nov. 12, 2019 -- when Coby White delivered a historic rookie performance against the New York Knicks at the United Center.
White hit 7 of 8 shots from 3-point range and scored 23 points, all in the fourth quarter of a Bulls victory.
White didn't match those numbers on Sunday, but his performance approached a similar level on the drama scale. White knocked down three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter -- his first since returning from shoulder surgery -- pushing the Bulls to a 109-103 victory over the Knicks.
"I knew all the work I put in during the time I was out, the uphill battle I was going through, I knew it was going to take some time," White said. "Nothing happens overnight. I feel like everyone in society nowadays, my first game back I was supposed to go out there and do what I did tonight, when that's just not reality. I haven't played in six months, on a new team."
White scored just 2 points and hit 1 of 11 shots in his first three games after returning to action during the West Coast trip. He scored 4 points in the early part of Sunday's game, then opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer. He added two more from long range, the latter putting the Bulls ahead 91-84 with 7:08 remaining.
"I knew a game was coming," White said. "I just had to trust my work, but also take my time. Nobody rushes me, the front office, the players, the coaching staff -- they all just tell me to be confident and it's going to fall into place, just give it some time. I just feel if I go be me, it would take care of everything else would take care of itself."
The Bulls led 51-45 at halftime, but Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau flipped the momentum by riding a two-man game with Kemba Walker and Julius Randle. The Bulls' taller guards have trouble matching Walker's quickness, and they don't have the size to contend with a true power forward like Randle, so Thibodeau stuck to the plan like a football coach running straight up the middle until the defense proves it can provide resistance.
One of the Bulls' best traits this season, though, is that as much as they can get hurt by their lack of size, they always seem to find a way to turn the tables and make their team speed the deciding factor in the game.
When the Knicks tried to go to Randle in the fourth quarter, the Bulls would send Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball for a double-team and force New York into scramble mode. Once that happens, the Bulls figure they can rotate their defense just as fast as the opponent can move the ball. They switched it from a power game to a scramble game and came out ahead.
"The last time we played them, I thought Julius did as really good job of passing out of double teams, so we wanted to wait to trap him," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. "I thought we did a better job of providing help. I give those guys a lot of credit, they help each other, they scramble they scrap, I thought they were extremely physical. It was just a hard-fought game, baskets were hard to come by."
The Knicks got within 2 points a couple of times down the stretch, but the Bulls always had an answer. After White's flurry, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan scored the next 14 points for the Bulls. DeRozan finished with 31 points and LaVine had 21. Randle finished with 34 points and 10 rebounds.
The victory moved the Bulls (12-5) into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with Brooklyn. They'll play the second leg of a home back-to-back against Indiana on Monday.