Under most circumstances, a loss like the one the Knicks suffered on Thursday night in Chicago would be the cause of endless frustration.
The Knicks led by 17 in the first quarter and 15 in the third quarter before giving both those leads away to a Bulls team that was playing without Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson (to say nothing of Derrick Rose). So they rode Nate Robinson, whose constant preening was mildly loathsome in New York and totally so now that he wears another uniform, and Jimmy Butler all the way back into a lead while the Knicks' offense totally stagnated in the final 18 minutes of action.
Despite that, the Knicks showed defensive backbone and rallied to force eight straight misses by Chicago at the end of the fourth to give themselves a clean look for Carmelo Anthony at the top of the key to win the game, but watched it carom away harmlessly. Overtime was all Chicago, giving them a 118-111 win and a 4-0 sweep of the season series.
This is normally the kind of loss that galls you right down to the core. Late Thursday night, it was hard to do much more than just shrug the shoulders.
While it is always better to win games than lose them, Thursday night's game was the very definition of a loss without consequence. The Knicks started Chris Copeland at center and had just nine players at their disposal because of the injuries that make getting healthy a bigger priority than winning a 52nd game in the regular season.
Expecting such a lineup to win a game is a stretch and expecting them to play five extra minutes without seeing some drop in their performance is about as foolish an expectation as one could have. And, quite frankly, Melo and J.R. Smith were due for a night when they didn't make every single shot in front of them and you'd rather get it out of the way now than in the postseason.
The Knicks still sit in second place in the Eastern Conference, they still have a game left with Indiana that will almost certainly wind up deciding who gets that spot and the Bulls win actually increased Chicago's chances of taking the fifth playoff seed. That would limit the chances of a playoff meeting on the way to the Eastern Conference finals, which would be quite a bit better than running into a team that has had the Knicks' number earlier in the tournament.
That's not to say there weren't things that were frustrating about the Knicks Thursday night. Mike Woodson played Iman Shumpert just 26 minutes when it was clear none of the other Knicks guards could stay in front of Robinson and the Knicks lost composure once again thanks to officiating in a game against Chicago, but keep things in perspective.
Without Tyson Chandler or Kenyon Martin, the Knicks couldn't defend the interior at all and played a game that bears no resemblance to one with either of those two available for duty. The Knicks took their best shot with a depleted roster and, quite understandably, ran out of gas before the final buzzer sounded.
Painful? Sure, but it isn't predictive nor is it particularly meaningful for a team with far bigger fish to fry in the next few weeks.