CHICAGO | If not for the players' union, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks' Mike Woodson might be recruiting bodies from the VIP seats.
Thursday night's game with the charging New York Knicks, winners of 13 straight, saw both benches loaded with inactives.
Chicago was without Taj Gibson (knee) and Joakim Noah (foot) while the visitors played without Tyson Chandler (bulging disc), Kenyon Martin (ankle), Amar'e Stoudemire (knee), Kurt Thomas (foot), Rasheed Wallace (foot) and Marcus Camby (foot).
Fortunately for New York, it had NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony with all parts fully operational, to make it interesting before the Bulls prevailed 118-111 in overtime.
Super sub Nate Robinson led Chicago (43-35) with 35 points. Jimmy Butler added 22 and 14 rebounds. Carlos Boozer chipped in 13 points and 15 boards.
"Nate was cooking. He's a pure scorer. He hits a couple and it's over," Kirk Hinrich said.
"Nate's our catalyst," Thibodeau was quick to add.
Robinson shot 10-of-18 and had five 3s.
"We want to win. That's where that energy (in OT) comes from — from inside," Boozer said. "Every game will be tough with our talent out. But with all our talent back, you'll see a different story."
Carmelo Anthony had 36 points and 19 rebounds for New York (51-27), now 0-4 against Chicago this season. JR Smith added 28 points and 14 rebounds off the bench.
The upstart Bulls recently snapped Miami's 27-game win streak. It's a habit they can live with.
"There is no shame at all in losing a streak like that," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson.
“The Knicks have been terrific all year,” Thibodeau said. “When you have a player like Carmelo, an MVP candidate, you have maybe the best scorer in the league. He's been doing it for a long time. He scores a lot of different ways.
“He keeps a lot of pressure on you.”
The 10-year veteran and perennial All-Star came in averaging 28.6 points per game. Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant was next at 28.3. The Knicks' last scoring champion was Bernard King (32.9) in 1985.
Butler stuck to 'Melo' like a wet T-shirt, holding him to 13-of-34 shooting.
"He's such a great scorer. You're never going to stop him," Thibodeau said. "You got to make him work for his shots and Jimmy kept coming at him, battling."
The United Center had been the Knicks' Achilles' heel, losing 20 of their last 23 games there. They blew a 17-point first-quarter lead on Thursday.
"Mental toughness is critical and I like the way our mental toughness is coming around," Thibodeau said.