NBA: Bulls 103, Knicks 90
NEW YORK ó Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls stayed in the race for the NBAís best record, overwhelming the New York Knicks to start the second half and winning 103-90 on Tuesday night for their eighth straight victory.
Rose scored 26 points for the Bulls, who opened the third quarter with a 26-2 spurt over the first 7-plus minutes and improved to 61-20. Luol Deng added 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Carlos Boozer had 14 points and 22 boards as Chicago outrebounded New York 51-33.
Chicago, already assured the best record in the Eastern Conference, entered play a game behind San Antonio for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. The tiebreakers are all even, so a random drawing would be held if they finish with the same record as the Spurs, who faced the Los Angeles Lakers later Tuesday.
Just in case he still needed to, Rose put on a show for the MVP voters watching the nationally televised game, shooting 10 of 19 and throwing down a few crowd-pleasing dunks as the Bulls ran away from the Knicks after losing the first two meetings.
Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points for the Knicks who had their seven-game winning streak snapped. Locked into the No. 6 seed and a first-round matchup with Boston, New York rested Amare Stoudemire for the third straight game, though his sprained left ankle was well enough to play.
Stoudemire might sit again Wednesday when the Knicks close the regular season at Boston in a playoff preview.
Bill Walker scored 18 points and Toney Douglas had 13 for the Knicks, who had won the first two meetings and were trying to sweep the Bulls for the first time since winning all three in 1999-00. New York had been the only team Chicago had not defeated at least once this season.
The Knicks scored 120 points in one of those victories, the highest allowed by the defensive-minded Bulls this season. But after allowing 55 in the first half Tuesday, Chicago was at its stingiest after the break.
After Keith Bogansí basket opened the second-half scoring, Rose scored seven straight to give Chicago a 61-55 lead. Anthony got the Knicks on the board with a jumper, but the Bulls quickly blew it open with 17 consecutive points.
Deng had the first six and Rose contributed the highlight, a reverse dunk after a turnover that had the crowd roaring before Joakim Noahís free throws extended it to 78-57 with 5 minutes left in the period. New York missed 12 of its first 13 shots in a stunning drought for the team that ranks second in the NBA in scoring.
New York got back within seven early in the fourth, but Rose nailed a 3-pointer and it wasnít close again.
Rose, considered the MVP favorite, was loudly cheered during starting lineups and had the fans screaming again a few minutes later.
An alley-oop pass to Rose that he caught below the rim and powered it up and through with one hand tied it late in the first quarter before Walkerís 3-pointer gave the Knicks a 27-24 lead. Their lead was still three at halftime after shooting 56 percent.
Rose is on the cover of this weekís Sports Illustrated, the first Bulls player to earn that honor since Michael Jordan in 1999.