A former teammate brought the Bulls back to earth Wednesday night.
Curry, out with a strained left calf, watched as another former Bull, Jamal Crawford, breathed life back into the Knicks before 17,909 fans at Madison Square Garden. Coming off the bench, Crawford scored 28 points, including 23 in the second half, as the Knicks rallied for a 109-101 victory.
"I've seen Jamal do that a lot," Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich said. "It's unfortunate he did it against us."
The Bulls led almost the entire game but kept teetering toward a breakdown. Their late all-out collapse clinched it for the Knicks, who snapped the Bulls' winning streak at four games by outscoring them 35-19 in the fourth quarter.
For the first 6 minutes 4 seconds of the fourth quarter, the Bulls went scoreless. They allowed the Knicks to go from eight down to the lead for the first time with 8:13 to play on a free throw by another former teammate, Antonio Davis, whom they had reluctantly sent to the Knicks along with Curry in October. Davis finished with 11 points.
"I know everyone is going to look at the fourth quarter because we had the lead, but the problem in the game was their free throws and our turnovers," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "You can't let a team shoot 57 free throws and turn the ball over 19 times and expect to win the game."
The Bulls committed 40 fouls to 26 for New York. While a few calls against them were questionable, they clearly had lost the benefit of the doubt with the referees because of their propensity to hack.
Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni and Tyson Chandler fouled out in the fourth quarter, Gordon leaving with a season-high 28 points. He hit seven three-pointers to tie a franchise record held by Michael Jordan, Jalen Rose and Jannero Pargo.
Nocioni scored 19, his season high. Chandler left with eight minutes to play without scoring a point.
"What I gave my team tonight was awful," Chandler said.
His teammates, especially the inside players, were in a funk most of the night.
"I blame that on myself," Chandler said of the team's sluggishness.
"I wasn't able to give my team energy [or] be a presence inside. I fouled out so early, I never got it going."
Michael Sweetney, whom the Bulls acquired from New York in the Curry trade, returned to Madison Square Garden on edge and in no time was in foul trouble. He scored 10.
"We had terrible trouble keeping their guards from penetrating," Skiles said. "Our bigs were pretty much no-shows as far as coming over to help. They were all very slow reacting."
Crawford took full advantage of almost every miscue. He had been a first-round draft pick with Cleveland in 2000, and the Bulls traded for him. He was dealt to the Knicks in the summer of 2004 after falling out of favor with the staff.
Hinrich was the only Bull who had some success guarding him.
"Other than that, he scored pretty much at will," Skiles said.