Tonight, the (5-3) Chicago Bulls started their five-game, ten day road trip at the US Airways Center against the (4-5) Phoenix Suns. After missing a clincher against the Celtics, Kirk Hinrich found his way back to the starting line up, helping the Bulls to a 112-106 victory.
There were a few questions heading in to the game… or narratives, as some fans like to call them:
Would the Bulls bounce back on the road, with the Suns winning their last three home games?
Will Taj Gibson redeem himself for his missed crunch time free throws, as well as his over all struggles?
Will Marquis Teague see any time in the game?
The answers to those questions were yes, not really and no. Not bad. For those concerned, Taj totalled a whopping 4 points, 2 rebounds and 3 personal fouls and the #TeaguePassAlert hashtag only made two appearances on my timeline.
Here’s how it happened:
Carlos Boozer, also known as the notorious bum-slayer, started the game off strong pouring in the Bulls first eight points, until a three-pointer by Rip Hamilton, who finished with 15 points, swirled its way into the basket at the 7:37 mark. In the midst of all that, the Phoenix Suns announcer made a comment about how Dragic doesn’t look like a quick, athletic guy. What ever could he mean by that? It’s 12-11 Phoenix at this point. Boozer continues his red hot streak, the Bulls trade baskets and allow a few easy ones as soon as Noah checks out of the game with foul trouble. Highlight 1 of the game, a bullet pass from Kirk Hinrich (3 points, 7 assists) allows Gibson to answer right back with a dunk of his own.
For Bulls fans circa 2011 that weren’t fans of the Rip Hamilton signing, watch Shannon Brown (who is the worst
player in the history of basketball…this isn’t biased by the way because journalists are never biased) closely as he checks in for the first time. After dribbling for about seven years, trying to put a move on a Bulls defender and failing, he decides to jump up in the air and erratically shoot the ball when he realizes he has no other choice. Needless to say, it ends up being a miss.
Anyways, I’ll get on to the rest of the game now. Nate drains his second contested three of the game, putting the Bulls up by seven. After trading buckets, he then hits Deng on point for an alley-oop. At the 5:23 mark, Rip got with the first of many technical fouls of the game. On a familiar note, that also marked the first time Luol Deng sat on the bench. He finished the half with just eight points. Luckily for Thibs blood pressure, Jimmy Butler proved to be an enormous second quarter spark-plug, racking up steals, hitting a few jumpers and all the while playing his usual, not-quite-as-good-or-dirty-Bruce-Bowen-style defense.
At this point, the Suns announcers decided to chime in again: “The Butler did it! Bet he never heard that one before.” It’s not hard to guess that he doesn’t spend much time on the Chicago Bulls RealGM forum. Thanks to a 9-0 run, the Bulls found themselves up by six at halftime, even though they were down 8-2 in the offensive rebounding battle. Perhaps the Suns were motivated by what Alvin Gentry had to say before the game:
“No one blocks out,” he continued. “We keep talking about that with our guys, but watching these games, I haven’t seen one person block out yet. But I think if you’re going to do that you need size and you’ve got to be very athletic.”
The third quarter saw much of the same momentum that had spawned the Bulls second quarter run. They took over defensively, Carlos Boozer continued to pour in baskets and Noah, who finished with an impressive 21 points and 12 rebounds – most of which came in the second half, was hitting the boards while the shooters were shooting their shots. All in all, they were doing everything right on lieu to a 20-4 run that opened up the game, giving Chicago its largest lead of the game at 18 points. However, the Bulls let up a little once Boozer and Hamilton checked out and Nate got hit with another technical foul… allowing the Suns to go into the fourth quarter down by just 14 points.
As most things go, the fourth quarter was when things got interesting. The Suns were inching their way back in to the game thanks to a couple miraculous three point shots by Sebastian Telfair , who finished the game with 17 points and the first five second call at the three point line in the history of the NBA charged to Kirk Hinrich. With the Bulls up only five, Boozer gets to the line and hits both free throws, showing that he can play when it matters too. However, a Marcin Gortat hook-shot over Carlos is what cut the lead to just three. This was the point where Thibs would usually look to the bench and call Derrick’s number. Unfortunately, the Bulls are going to have to continue to learn to do it by themselves.
Shannon Brown (who is still terrible, by the way) rolls to the rim for a lay-up, getting his club even closer. Telfair then ties the game, hitting his fourth three. Second highlight of the game: Robinson pump fakes, goes UNDER Sebastian Telfair’s legs and flows to the basket for 2. Taj Gibson, really living up to his contract here, allows Shannon Brown (he still sucks though) to get an and-1, giving PJ Tucker a chance to tie at 100. Overtime, here we come!
In a rather anticlimactic ending, the Bulls managed to win the game 112-106, after allowing Phoenix to come back from down nineteen points. After three straight comeback games, even the Suns medical staff couldn’t do anything about their tired legs. Michael Beasley was the only Suns player to score a basket in the extended period. Lius Scola, who had a fantastic game (24 points, 14 boards), fouled out early thanks to a Kirk Hinrich charge.
One big takeaway: Not that it needs to be said, but the Bulls miss Derrick Rose. For the second straight game in a row, the Bulls melted down offensively in the fourth quarter. This time, they limped and hustled themselves to a win. If they can keep it up and come February they have a decent shot at winning the division, it’s all smiles. However, the basketball gods are usually much more cynical than I.
Game Ball: This one obvious, it goes to the most-hated, under-appreciated (bear with me) Carlos Boozer. Nailing tough jumper after tough jumper, finishing in the paint and grabbing tough boards, the amnesty candidate proved to be the glue tonight. He finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and just a lone turnover.
The Chicago Bulls will play game two of their road trip this Saturday, facing off against Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers at 6:00 PM CST. Be sure to tune in to Pippen Aint Easy for the most comprehensive Bulls coverage on the interwebs.