NEW YORK (AP) -- The words came out of Kirk Hinrich's mouth
almost matter-of-factly, words that no member of the Chicago Bulls
would have dared utter for the better part of the past decade.
"We're a good team," Hinrich said, and there was no disputing
him after the Bulls ran their winning streak to seven games Monday
with an 88-86 victory over the reeling New York Knicks.
Ben Gordon scored on a driving 8-footer with one-tenth of a
second remaining for the game-winning points, a basket that
prompted coach Scott Skiles to leap into the arms of Tyson Chandler
and Eddy Curry.
And after the Knicks botched their last attempt and the final
buzzer sounded, the smiles adorning the Bulls were a stark contrast
to the long-faced frowns draping the Knicks.
"In this stretch we're just finding ways to win. Last year we
were finding ways to lose," Hinrich said, "Hopefully, that's the
sign of a good team."
A good team, it was pointed out, is something the Bulls have
been the antithesis of since the end of the 1990s, when Michael
Jordan left and the franchise sank into an extended period of
Nobody would have dared call the Bulls good in late November,
either, after they opened the season 0-9, but the seven straight
victories have left Chicago just one game below .500.
"About a month and a half ago I thought we had the makings to
be a good team, then we put together a couple of good stretches,"
Hinrich said. "We have been playing like a good team, we're No. 1
in the league in defensive field goal percentage, and that's a sign
of a good team."
Seven straight wins represents the longest winning streak for
Chicago since the 1997-98 team won 13 in a row. A member of that
team, Scottie Pippen, was in the front row at Madison Square Garden
to get a firsthand look at this edition of the Bulls.
Luol Deng led Chicago with 19 points, Hinrich had 14 points, 13
rebounds and eight assists and Andres Nocioni came off the bench to
add 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Stephon Marbury had 25 points to lead the Knicks, who lost for
the seventh time in eight games and relinquished sole possession of
first place in the Atlantic Division.
"It hurts to lose this game. We had them, and to lose at the
end hurts," the Knicks' Jamal Crawford said.
Chicago scored the final seven points of the game and held the
Knicks without a field goal over the final 3½ minutes. New York was
the Bulls' 22nd consecutive opponent held under 100 points.
The Bulls outrebounded the Knicks 56-38, with four players
grabbing at least 10.
"It's beautiful, man. Beautiful to watch and beautiful to be a
part of," Curry said.
The Bulls trailed for most of the fourth quarter, but Nocioni's
3-pointer with 56 seconds left tied it 86-86. Kurt Thomas missed a
jumper for the Knicks, and Nocioni rebounded Gordon's missed shot
at the other end to give the Bulls one last possession with 16.1
Gordon, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter,
went around a screen to free himself of Jamal Crawford, then took
two more steps into the lane and launched his game-winner over the
outstretched arm of Michael Sweetney.
"The game was dragging on -- man, it was terrible -- but in the
fourth quarter I picked it up," said Gordon, who needed to procure
nearly two dozen tickets for family and friends from his hometown
of Mount Vernon, N.Y.
On the final possession, the Knicks only had enough time to
attempt a lob toward the basket that could be tipped in.
But Jerome Williams inbounded to Kurt Thomas near the 3-point
line, and his jumper would not have counted even if it had gone in.
"There was no way for us to get a lane toward the hoop, so
there was nothing we could do," Williams said.
New York activated Crawford, who had missed 10 games with a
toe injury, from the injured list before the game. He had eight
points on 4-of-14 shooting -- including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers --
against the team with which he spent his first four NBA seasons.
... Bulls F/C Antonio Davis was a late scratch because of a stiff
back. Former Knick Othella Harrington, part of the Crawford trade
last summer, replaced Davis in the starting lineup. ... Knicks F
Tim Thomas was back after missing three games because of knee and
calf injuries. He was ineffective, missing two field goal attempts
and two foul shots in four first-half minutes. ... To make room for
Crawford on the active roster, the Knicks placed G Moochie Norris
on the injured list with Achilles tendinitis.