CHICAGO (AP) — Dennis Smith Jr. scored 25 points, Mitchell Robinson added eight points and 17 rebounds and the New York Knicks escaped the possibility of finishing with their worst-ever record by beating the Chicago Bulls 96-86 on Tuesday night.
With one game remaining, the Knicks (17-64) can only tie for the worst season in franchise history. A loss to the Detroit Pistons, who are seeking to lock up a playoff spot, would give New York a record matching only its ugly 2014-15 campaign.
New York, which had already secured the NBA’s worst record and a draft position no worse than fifth, won back-to-back games for the first time since late February.
The Bulls, meanwhile, lost for the 32nd time at United Center this season, a franchise record. Chicago’s previous worst home season was in 2000-01.
The Knicks, who led by as many as 20 against a depleted Bulls lineup, needed a late 5-0 run to pull away. Smith hit a pair of free throws and Damyean Dotson made a 3 to put the Knicks up 89-79 with 2:42 left.
Kevin Knox added 17 points and 10 rebounds and Dotson finished with 12.
Ryan Arcidiacono led the Bulls (22-59) with 14 points and Shaquille Harrison added 13.
Smith scored 19 points in the first half and Knox added 11 as the Knicks led by as many as 20 in the first quarter. The Bulls cut into the lead late in the second quarter. They trailed 57-50 at halftime.
For the second straight game, Smith played with a sore lower back. He was originally slated to come off the bench, but that changed when guard Mario Hezonja came down with an illness and was a late scratch.
“Right now (Smith) is still isn’t at 100%, but he is still giving it to us because he wanted to finish the season on the court,” coach David Fizdale said.