NEW YORK – Three players and a coach were not around to witness the end of the last Bulls-Knicks game at Madison Square Garden.
That coach was New York's Mike Woodson, who forecasted another battle royale.
"Chicago, the Celtics, Indiana … teams that play defense and get after it, there will be [intense] games," he said. "I expect [this] will be no different."
It turned out completely different, a walk in the park for the Bulls – for 44 minutes. But even after giving up 12 straight points late in the fourth quarter, Chicago left town with a solid 108-101 victory.
"When you build a cushion," coach Tom Thibodeau said, "you can withstand things not going your way. The most important thing is getting the win."
Marco Belinelli came through at the end, hitting 5 of 6 free throws and making a steal to lock up the victory. The Bulls improved to 3-0 against the Knicks, a mark that pleases native New Yorker Joakim Noah to no end.
"It feels great," he said. "Everybody's locked in when we play the Knicks. It's easy to get up for games like this – big stage, playing in the Garden."
Luol Deng scored 33 points on 13-for-18 shooting, besting his season high of 29 that came Dec. 21 in that wild, four-point Bulls victory in New York that featured nine technical fouls.
"Honestly it's not about the scoring," he said. "I just want to play well. I score for the team, but I don't go out trying to get big numbers. I never focus on one thing."
Carmelo Anthony scored 39 points, but most came after the game was decided. And he shot just 14-for-32.
"(Deng) guarded Carmelo about as well as you can," Thibodeau said.
There were no scraps or technical fouls Friday, just superb basketball from the visitors, who improved to 9-1 on the road against Eastern Conference foes.
The Bulls allowed New York to score 41 points in the fourth quarter – and nail 11 of 17 from deep in the second half. Until the late flurry, the Bulls were totally dominant, building a 101-80 lead with 3 minutes, 47 seconds to play.
"I wish every game was here," Noah said. "It's the best, man."
Star of the game: Luol Deng (Bulls), 33 points
Up next: Suns at Bulls, 7 p.m. Saturday
TV/Radio: WGN/AM 1000