CHICAGO — The wait is almost over.
The Bulls drop-kicked the Phoenix Suns in the final minutes to preserve a 97-94 win which deadlocks them with San Antonio for the best home record in the NBA.
Derrick Rose had 19 and Luol Deng posted 18 as the Bulls cut their magic number to clinch the Eastern Conference to just two.
The Suns didn’t lay down and die, and even though Vince Carter scored 23, the Suns dropped their sixth game out of their last seven. Steve Nash put in an impressive performance with 16 assists, but the Bulls were just way too much for the Suns to handle.
The United Center erupted into “MVP!” chants as Derrick Rose was fouled attempting a floater with just under two minutes to go. He finished with 3 rebounds, 4 assists and a block as he continued his MVP caliber season.
And to thwart the ‘controvery’ that Rose’s numbers aren’t there for the MVP, he’s the lock at this point because his ability to change how the Bulls play is far m ore vaulable than the numbers he posts.
Because he numbers are low, yet he is still so good is an attribute to his teamwork and his selflessness. He makes up for his ‘lack’ of numbers with a swagger that infects the Bulls and their fans that pack the Madhouse.
Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer both scored 10 off the bench and the fans at the United Center were treated to the triumphant return of Joakim Noah, who was on a brief hiatus resting his ankle. Noah finished with just four rebounds but managed to get 12 points.
The man who supposedly can’t play with him, Carlos Boozer, had nine rebounds. Despite the insane rumors and speculation that Noah and Boozer can’t play together on the court, the Bulls are 19-5 when the two are playing.
The win puts Chicago an even 3 in front of both Boston and Miami who are now tied for second in the East. The Bulls have a showdown in Chicago with the Celtics on Thursday which should all but wrap up the Eastern Conference should Chicago win.
The Bulls should realistically have the number one seed secured after their April 8th bout with the other C team, the Cav’s. This would mean the Bulls could rest their big men the last three games after that as the match-ups with Orlando and New York would be rendered meaningless for Chicago.
If the road to the Finals goes through Chicago and the United Center, the Bulls have a very real chance of getting to at least the Eastern Conference Finals. Suns head coach Alvin Gentry agrees.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if those two teams (Lakers and Bulls) played in the finals,” he said.