The Bulls remained on the fast track for the Eastern Conference's No. 2 playoff seed with a 98-69 blowout of the Knicks on Tuesday night at the United Center and also clinched home-court advantage for the first round, even if they finish as the fifth seed.
But a fast-food sandwich dominated words and actions in a heated postgame debate.
Several Knicks accused the Bulls of trying to run up the score in an attempt to hit the century mark and provide free Big Macs for the sellout crowd of 22,296 for doing so.
Steve Francis and Nate Robinson got in the faces of Bulls rookies Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha as the final buzzer sounded. As the teams then retreated to their locker rooms, teammates had to restrain Knicks center Jerome James from going after Thomas.
"I know when people are trying to run up the score on you," Francis said. "I told their players that if I was in the game, it would've been something different. I won't do that to nobody and I don't expect nobody to try to do that to the younger players on my team.
"I don't care about the Big Mac. I'm just saying respect, man. Their coach played in the NBA before. He should know that. If somebody did that to him, I'm pretty sure he would be upset."
Bulls coach Scott Skiles, speaking before Francis did, had no problem with his team missing three three-pointers, an alley-oop attempt from Chris Duhon to Thomas and a layup attempt off a rebound in the final 64 seconds after hitting 98 points.
"If we had 92 points with two minutes to go and we're out there jacking threes all over the place, I could see that," Skiles said. "But at the end to shoot the ball and try to tip it in, I've never been accused by anybody of trying to run up the score."
Pressed further, Skiles finally turned sarcastic.
"From everything I hear, they're on the verge of being a great team," Skiles said. "It ought to be a team we should be playing over and over again in the years to come. So something like this shouldn't fester or anything."
James matched Skiles' sarcasm, saying he merely was running down to say hello to fellow player representative P.J. Brown.
Said Duhon, with a smile: "I don't cook, so I wanted one myself. We certainly didn't mean any disrespect."
The postgame pap couldn't obscure an impressive Bulls performance that helped them match their 2004-05 victory total, keep their 50-victory goal alive and mesh with their mind-set of taking care of business to render whatever the Cavaliers does superfluous.
"Whether we can win them all or not, I don't know," Skiles said. "But I don't know if Cleveland can either. It looks like it on paper. But anything can happen at this time of year."
Except, it seems, a Knicks victory. Riddled with injuries, they have lost 10 of 12 and showed more fight after the final buzzer than they did during a 25-turnover performance.
The Knicks missed eight of their first nine shots and committed a staggering seven turnovers in the first 4:01, two of them on offensive fouls by Eddy Curry. He sat just 104 seconds after tipoff and finished with just four points and three turnovers in 22 minutes.
Ben Gordon's 23 points and seven assists led the Bulls, who rested their starters the entire fourth quarter.
Ben Wallace, who battled sinusitis last week, said his energy level was better but his headache remained. He had 10 rebounds.
Kirk Hinrich, already battling a sore big toe, knocked knees with Robinson but contributed 13 points and five assists in just 17 minutes.
This game provided the largest margin of victory in 186 meetings between the teams.
"They definitely were trying to run up the score," Curry said. "But that's all right. We'll see them next year."
Bulls 98, Knicks 69