There’s not much to say about Friday night’s home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The “Bulls” — minus Derrick Rose (sprained wrist), Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis) and Luol Deng (strained calf) — fought the good fight and (shockingly) took a brief fourth quarter lead before LeBron James decided to start taking the game seriously. Once LeBron did that, it was over.
An imperfect 10. Losses in a row, that is.
But on Saturday night, the “Bulls” started looking like the Bulls again. Rose and Noah returned — at long last — and the losing streak was finally, mercifully, and wonderfully snapped. Insert huge sigh of relief here.
Noah only played nine minutes off the bench, but he squeezed 7 points (1-for-4 FGs, 5-for-8 FTs) and 4 rebounds into his limited playing time. And there was one great sequence with about eight and a half minutes left in the game when Joakim rebounded a Philly miss, shuffled the ball to Rose, and then beat everybody down the court before drawing a foul from Jodie Meeks.
That was nice to see.
But nothing looked any better than watching Rose return and dominate. Derrick played 37 minutes and scored a game-high 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting. He was 7-for-12 on jump shots and an amazing 4-for-6 from downtown. Mind you, Rose entered the game having made only six three-pointers on the season. The kid was sizzling.
Said Rose: “I got a lot of open shots. It seemed like they were giving me the shots. I was open. I had to take them.”
I bet the Sixers wish they would have given somebody else those shots.
It was also good to see some defense. Before the Cavs game — a 92-85 loss — the Bulls hadn’t held an opponent below 100 points since February 20. That was a span of 12 straight games. But Philly managed only 84 points on 40 percent shooting while missing 16 of their 17 three-point attempts.
Said Philly coach Eddie Jordan: “We just didn’t have it.”
Now, although this win made relief wash over me in an awesome wave, it’s important to keep things in perspective. The 76ers have lost 12 of their last 14 games and are only 11-23 at home. In other words, they aren’t exactly a championship contender.
But at this point, any win is huge. And getting Rose and Noah back was really huge.
Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro: “Having Rose and Noah back really helped. It was a nice win, knowing what we’ve been through.”
It’s still a long road to the playoffs — the Bulls are now 2 1/2 games behind Toronto for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference — but with Derrick back (in a big way) and Noah easing back into the fray, there’s at least some reason for optimism.