Eddy Curry showing anger was one of those rare Bulls' occurrences, like Michael Jordan failing or Eddie Robinson being healthy.
That's why Curry's outburst and flagrant foul on Andres Nocioni during the Knicks' 103-92 victory Friday night at Madison Square Garden seemed so shocking and out of character.
Almost as shocking as the undermanned Knicks winning for the third straight time since last Saturday's brawl with the Nuggets left them three suspended players short. Or as out of character as the red-hot Bulls, winners of 12 of 13 entering, showing less aggressiveness than a Manhattan cab driver.
"That definitely fired me up," Curry said. "Noce got me with a cheap shot. I just got him back. I have a lot of respect for Noce. He's a great player. I wish him a lot of success. But I'm not going to let somebody elbow me."
Curry's aggressive reaction set the tone for his 20-point, six-rebound night, and he wasn't the only one lighting up his former team. Jamal Crawford scored a game-high 30, including 10 of 10 from the free-throw line, as the Knicks won for just the second time in 10 tries against the Bulls.
After taking a Nocioni elbow, Curry turned and shoved his ex-teammate in the chest, drawing the flagrant foul with 7 minutes 12 seconds left in the second quarter. He then appeared to shove official Mark Wunderlich in protest but didn't receive a technical foul.
"He knows me," Curry said of Wunderlich. "He knows I don't do that. That's not my mentality to go out there and push people around. If I have a reaction like that, more than likely somebody did something to me.
"Up until that play, everything seemed to be one-sided. I feel like I wasn't getting enough attention out there. The [official] was standing right there. He didn't see anything. I had to take it upon myself."
Those are fighting words. But Nocioni, playing his typical innocent role to the hilt, wasn't biting.
"I don't know what to say," Nocioni said. "I try to box out and that's it. He hit me in my head. But what can I do? Nothing."
That's also about what the Bulls' defense could do to stop the Knicks, who led by as many as 15. Crawford and Curry scored all but two points in a 16-4 third-quarter run that pushed their lead to 74-60.
Even when the Bulls made the inevitable run to close to 77-71 early in the fourth, first Ben Gordon and then Kirk Hinrich failed to close out on Stephon Marbury. The Knicks guard, who had 19 points and eight assists, drained open two- and three-pointers on successive trips.
"We got thoroughly outplayed in almost every area, especially in the second half," coach Scott Skiles said. "Their guards went by us at will. We got hurt inside. They were all over the glass on us. They dominated us rebounding. They looked like they wanted it more than we did."
That about covers it.
The Knicks, the league's top rebounding team, enjoyed a 57-36 advantage on the boards, including 20 offensive rebounds. Any Bulls who planned on spouting the "we're small" excuse weren't going to get any sympathy from Skiles.
"I would simply say if you're smaller then you ought to get down and box the guy in the seat if necessary and at least look like you want to do something out there instead of just passively standing around while guys go over you and get rebounds," he said.
Gordon scored 10 of his team-high 27 points in the first quarter. That's when the Bulls, deceivingly, looked like they had energy.
"It feels great," Curry said, smiling. "But I guess Noce don't like me anymore."
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