It was a team effort from the Chicago Bulls that propelled them to their third consecutive win over the Knicks this season – and second straight at The Garden – but the all-court play of Luol Deng was the stimulus the rest of the team took it's cue from.
Deng was sensational from the first quarter, where the Bulls let the Knicks know that despite New York having the best individual player on the floor, Chicago still have the wood over their long-time rival. Deng scored 9 points in the first term (4/5 shooting), but more importantly, he held Carmelo Anthony to just 4 points (1/8 from the field). Deng took responsibility for guarding Anthony from the beginning, and unlike Kevin Garnett, did not have to resort to trash talking to throw the superstar off his game.
Deng was physical with Anthony, bodying him up on defense and forcing the Knick forward into long-range shots.
After the game Deng praised the Bulls team defense in helping him contain Anthony, who finished with 39-points, but 19 of those points came in the final quarter.
"We have showed it this year when we are really focused and locked in," Deng said. "We know when we show up and stick to the game plan we can play with anybody in this League. We match up well [with the Knicks] and our game plan against them has been great. All year they have been doing a great job of spreading the floor and hitting threes. And they have Melo, who is explosive. Anytime he can get it going."
Deng was efficient offensively – he tied his season-high with 33-points (13/18 shooting) – as well. He rattled the Knicks early with an array of outside jumpers, mixed in with aggressive drives to the basket.
Deng said he was just focused on doing his part in helping the Bulls get another win in New York.
"I kept getting open looks and my shot felt great. Honestly, it's not about the scoring. I want to play well," he said. "Some nights are going to be like that, I don't go out trying to get big numbers in points. I am trying to get the team going, be a leader out there. There are a lot of things I need to focus on so I don't focus on one [particular] thing."
Teammate Joakim Noah said Deng played his role perfectly.
"That was an unbelievable performance," said Noah. "He really did his thing out there, but what's great about Lu's scoring is, that's all within the system and he's been playing great basketball for us all year and there's no way we'd be in the position we are right now without Luol Deng. Whether it's his scoring, his defense, his rebounding, he's a very versatile player."
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