Since Jim Boylan took over as coach, the Bulls have squeaked by a Kings team missing its top two scorers and four rotation players.
They have dawdled for most of three quarters against a listless Bobcats team before pulling away for a convincing victory. They have lost two winnable home games to the Magic and Trail Blazers in overtime.
Notice a trend? There is no such thing as a sure thing—or a stress-free fourth quarter—with this team.
And so it was Tuesday night at the United Center, where a Knicks team that entered just 1-13 on the road embarrassed the Bulls with a 105-100 comeback victory.
As the final buzzer sounded, the first boos of the Boylan era were heard from what remained of a sellout crowd of 21,838.
"We had the game in hand and let it get away," a peeved Boylan said. "There's no way we can make up ground or be thinking about getting into the playoffs if we're going to continue to play like that at the end of the game."
Stephon Marbury's three-pointer with 11.4 seconds remaining during a three-shot Knicks possession capped a 14-2 run as the Bulls failed to score over the final 4:16 and shot 6 of 20 in the fourth quarter.
David Lee rebounded Marbury's first miss on that three-shot possession, then Joe Smith and Ben Wallace failed to corral a defensive rebound off a Jamal Crawford miss before Marbury struck off a feed from Eddy Curry.
Former Bull Curry, booed during player introductions, led the Knicks with a season-high 29 points. Ex-Bull Crawford added 24 as the Knicks overcame a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Following the home overtime losses, Boylan had stressed the positive and applauded the Bulls' effort. Not so late Tuesday as he bluntly dissected the loss in a manner that recalled the fired Scott Skiles.
"I'm disappointed with our play in the fourth quarter," Boylan said. "We had nice momentum after a very good offensive third quarter. Then we just started holding the ball with no movement and became very stagnant. Our shot selection was poor."
Throw out Joe Smith's 3-for-4 fourth quarter, and the Bulls shot 3 of 16. Ben Gordon went 1 of 6 in the final period, Kirk Hinrich 1 of 3.
"I took a couple of bad shots," Gordon said.
The Bulls appeared to have matters in hand when Smith, who led the Bulls with 22 points and 12 rebounds, drained a jumper for a 98-91 lead with 5:17 remaining.
But the Knicks started their game-winning run with four straight points from Curry, picked up steam with a Marbury three-pointer and tied the game at 100-100 as Crawford scored over Hinrich.
The Bulls scored only on Gordon's jumper over their final nine possessions, including three Gordon misses, a Hinrich turnover and two misses and an offensive foul from Tyrus Thomas with 1:15 to play.
"We're all concerned," said Hinrich, who had 20 points and nine assists. "If we're going to turn this around, we have to win close games."
The Bulls played without the injured Luol Deng and used an ailing Andres Nocioni, slowed by a fever, just 16 minutes. With 10 home losses after 17 games, they have matched last season's total.
Boylan said officials allowed the Knicks to rectify a roster error in which Renaldo Balkman was listed on the active list twice and starting forward Quentin Richardson not at all. That means a Bulls protest is unlikely.
Also, late in the fourth quarter, officials finally figured out a basket credited to Lee for tipping in a missed Curry free throw at the 2:25 mark of the third quarter actually was a free throw Curry made. They took a point away from the Knicks.
The Bulls needed more help than that.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times