Circus Trip: Bulls 123, Suns 115 (20T)

Fifth game of the circus trip. Second night of back-to-backs following a tough loss to the Lakers. Down 50-27 in the second quarter. Apparently out of gas.

Emphasis on the word “apparently.”

As I watched Chicago’s amazing comeback last night, I was reminded of what Joakim Noah said a few weeks ago when the Bulls fell behind big to the Celtics in Boston on the second night of back-to-backs and nearly came back to win before succumbing in overtime:

“I think we’re not there yet, but we’re pretty close. We’re only going to get better, and when we do, it’s going to get real ugly for everybody who’s talking real crazy. All the trash that people are talking right now is going to come back and haunt them. Because when it counts, we’ll be ready.”

I loved that. Pure defiance. That — as much as the defense and rebounding — is what makes Noah so valuable. Derrick Rose may be Chicago’s best player, but Noah is the team’s spiritual leader. He is the savagely beating heart of a team that, so far this season, simply will not give up.

Take last night. His stat line — 17 points (8-for-13), 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals — doesn’t even begin to describe the impact he had on this game. It doesn’t list the shots he intimidated or the passes he disrupted. It doesn’t tell you how he repeatedly defended Steve Nash on the perimeter. How he dove for loose balls. How he clapped and screamed from the bench when he wasn’t in the game.

And when Rose hit a reverse layup to tie the score at 111 with 0.1 seconds left in the first overtime, it was Joakim who delivered the perfect pass to make it happen. When that play started, the Bulls had only 4.3 seconds to make something happen. And mind you, the only reason the Bulls were even in a position to tie the game at that point is because Noah had tipped in a missed three-pointer by Rose on Chicago’s previous possession.

I’m not trying to take anything away from Derrick’s performance. Rose was awesome. He played 50 minutes and scored a game-best 35 points while grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds and dishing out a team-high 7 assists. Rose hit clutch shot after clutch shot…and the two clutch free throws at the end of regulation that forced the first overtime.

He’s becoming a superstar if he isn’t one already.

But I’m here to tell you, Noah’s contributions — statistically, emotionally, spiritually — are just as important. His performance last night was just as amazing as what Rose did, even if it’s not getting as much attention.

Chicago’s depth was also critical. Kyle Korver had 24 points off the bench to go with 5 rebounds and 3 assists…and the Bulls were +22 when he was on the floor. James Johnson returned from the dead (again) to score 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting to (also) go with 5 rebounds and 3 assists…and the Bulls were +10 when he was on the floor.

C.J. Watson (2 points, 1-for-4, 2 assists) and Brian Scalabrine (0 points, 1 assist) didn’t make huge statistical contributions, but the Bulls were +12 and +10 respectively when they were in the game. Even Omer Asik made his presence felt, particularly on a pick-and-roll play attempt by the Suns in which Asik used his length to cut off the passing lane and then intimidated Nash into an airball.

In the NBA, a bench is supposed to provide energy and key contributions when called on. Well, they’re doing that.

The Bulls are really coming together as a team. There were countless points last night at which they could have failed or just given up. But they didn’t. They wouldn’t. And I haven’t even mentioned how Taj Gibson missed the game with a foot injury, or that Carlos Boozer still hasn’t played a single game yet this season.

Pure defiance.

Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

19 Responses to Circus Trip: Bulls 123, Suns 115 (20T)

    Enigmatik November 25, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    They didn’t thump the Suns like I said yesterday, but I’ll take the win! Very, very proud of the effort of the team…they could have easily packed it in and started looking towards Denver but they put on their hard hats and went to work.

    And to think, a 20-10 guy is going to be joining the team soon…

  2. Mahmoud November 25, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    How many teams in the NBA are good enough where you can take away their second best scoring threat and they’re still this good? Not many. Take Gasol off the Lakers? They’re done. Take Jameer Nelson off the Magic? Done. Pierce or Ray Allen from the Celtics? Done. The Bulls are very much for real. I even kind of don’t mind that we don’t have a two guard because our two guard serves the very specific purpose of guarding the other team’s perimeter starting threat, so that’s not too big a deal (what is a big deal, however, is that we had a perfect player for that position and traded him away for a late first round pick. But that’s another story). Basically, this team is awesome. They’re fun to watch, explosive, and play stifling defense. Can’t wait to see where this goes.

    C-Lo_The_Great November 25, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    Why did we sign Kurt Thomas? Why is Kurt Thomas not playing instead of Scalabrine? I don’t understand this. I LOVE coach Thibs but i hate when he plays Scalabrine. At least give Asik Scal’s minutes. Great game from the bulls. Every time i think how good they are right now, I forget Boozer still hasn’t played in a single minute in a Bulls uni.

    1c1cle November 25, 2010 at 4:18 pm #

    The Bulls won the game without EVER leading in the first 4 quarters. Amazing. I wonder if that every happened before.

    Deng, Noah, and Rose. Well done- the leaders played their roles fantastically. This game though, is owned to Korver and Johnson. Cheers to the day when Gibson is our 6th man and Korver is our 7th.

    Tony C. November 25, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    Excellent review, Matt. You really nailed the essence of why the Bulls are such an exciting and promising team. Anyone who believes that Carmelo Anthony is a more valuable player than Noah (let alone Noah plus other players, etc.) is simply over-relying on bare statistics.

    It’s good to see Thibs giving Korver more playing time, and more opportunities to shoot. Yes, it’s true that he’s not a great defender, and he does throw at least one ill-advised pass per game, but his value as a shooter and a potential threat outweigh his shortcomings by a fair margin.

    Brewer deserves a tip of the cap for (I believe) two important blocks late in the game. While a limited shooter, he is a unique player with his wing-span and quickness, and I expect that he will become increasingly valuable as the season unfolds.

  6. Trey November 25, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    Another point about how this game showed a lot more, wouldn’t you think the Suns are the worst team to play on the second of back-to-backs when they have fresh legs? They play at a fast pace, Steve Nash is always driving and dishing, and everyone has to have proper rotations to show on all of the picks due to the talented 3 point shooters they have.

    Add that to the fact that normally the second game has teams settling for jumpers and not attacking the basket (something I thought the Bulls were guilty of early and led to the huge deficit) and I think it shows we have the ability to gut out wins even when things aren’t going our way.

    Jake in Minnie (actually Waukegan right now) November 25, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    Last night was a great night for me basketball wise, watched Waukegan trounce North Chicago at North Chicago, then came home and saw a stellar performance out of the Bulls.

    Scottie Pimpin November 25, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    Good game, happy to see Deng make his critics look bad. hey may not be an elite SF , but hes damn good , and most of all, he plays DEFENSE.

    Rose is begining to look like a monster on offense. they should post him up more , Noah really brought it last night. great win.

    BoppinBob November 25, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    While the Suns were a team that the Bulls “should beat”, they were going to have to do it without their top two PF’s (who are 2 of the top 6 players on the team). while it was definitely no cake walk the Bulls showed their heart and the other intangibles that will take them deep into the playoffs as long as they stay relatively healthy, lol.

    Contributions by the bench both offensively and defensively were a large part of this victory. With both Taj and Carlos out this win was very promising, and it must give other teams in the NBA something to think about.

    Just a thought, if the playoffs were to start today, the Bulls (3rd) would be playing Miami (6th).

    zillaa November 25, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    Great win, but does anyone know someone at Elias Sports Bureau that can look at driving layup attempt to FT ratio? I swear Rose and Deng are #1 and #2 worst in the league in that ratio. Seriously, even with the Bulls sub-par FT shooting, if we think they’re pretty good now, what would happen if Boozer came back AND they made another 7 of 10 free throws every game due to fouls being called the same for Deng and Rose as they are for Kevin friggin’ Martin (who hasn’t earned ANY superstar treatment from refs).

    Schwam November 25, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    This is awesome — I love the team this season. i love how everyone is accepting a role. i love how Boozer hasnt played a game. I love the better ball movement ….. i love it all ……

  12. TBF November 25, 2010 at 8:33 pm #

    I was really surprised by how homer-tastic the Suns announcers were last night. I mean, Korver got done stuffing Grant Hill’s shot back into his face, then didn’t bite on any of his fakes, then didn’t hit him with the body when Grant pushed off, then was straight up and down just like you’re supposed to be when an offensive player does that. Grant made the circus shot, and the announcers said, “Gee, Korver must be the worst defender in the league.” What was he supposed to do, tackle him? Just not very professional. And they kept parroting that tired line about Rose being a bad shooter. Was pretty funny to win the game.

    Deng showed up to play. I loved the double over time rocker-step jumper that he just buried. That’s clutch, big time.

  13. TBF November 25, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Oh, and Rose’s 50 minutes were not a game high. Luol Deng had a game-high (and rather mind-boggling) 54 minutes. More impressive, he didn’t pick up a single foul.

    BigUpsTo#15 November 25, 2010 at 10:16 pm #

    Great article written by, Kelly Scaletta after last night’s game…

    “Chicago Bulls: The NBA’s “Rocky” Showing The Character Of a Champion”

    Matt McHale November 26, 2010 at 2:23 am #

    “Oh, and Rose’s 50 minutes were not a game high. Luol Deng had a game-high (and rather mind-boggling) 54 minutes. More impressive, he didn’t pick up a single foul.”

    You’re right. I blacked out on Deng’s performance, which was pretty key too.

    Dave N November 26, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    Great article, especially to see the bench gettingn some respect. Okay, they got beat up by the Lakers (how many benches will that happen to this year!?), but they basically won us the game against the Rockets, got us the huge lead (and gave us a chance in the 4th) against the Spurs, were big against Dallas, then last night. As others have said, throw Taj in there with KK, CJ, Asik and Brewer (or Bogans, once Thibs gives Brewer the start), and that’s a pretty decent second unit.

    Then again, who needs a second unit when Deng plays 54 minutes and we have Derrick and Joakim – and that Carlos guy to come back!!

    inkybreath November 26, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    …glad someone reminded me about the announcers. I was dumb-struck after that play on Grant Hill and them just reading from the moron sports script.

    I have been okay with Korver’s defensive play and hustle – considering what I had heard of him and that play in particular?… He did what I would ask of any defender at that point in the game.

    Chi4life da Bulls November 26, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    Its time for us a fans of the bulls to stop trying to tear down Deng he is who he is not a elite player but he is a complete player hard nose plays hard through pain also not to mention he does score and very well sometimes, also he makes plays on both ends of the court to help his team he is a team player what ever he does not do that mello does I would glady settle for him any day on our team for the mello lovers think back to over the summer and we missed out on the big three stop waiting trying to replace players on our team and support them and there game fully this is our team deng is one of our player I have his back and if your a true bulls fan you should also have his back to for the haters or mello lovers wake up that is just a nother smoke screen never gonna happen if the bulls give what they want for mello our team as we know it is done the is no I in team mello is just one guy to give up so much would be a big bad choice on the bulls hope they are not that dumb to go for it besides I would rather have Deng he is a more complete player than mello, he is just a scorer I want a complete player who plays both ends which i am sure our coach would agree with me on that. Peace


  1. Circus Trip: Nuggets 98, Bulls 97 » By The Horns - November 27, 2010

    […] remember that “pure defiance” I was talking about after Chicago’s comeback win over the Suns? Apparently, it exists even when the team’s All-Star point guard isn’t able to suit up. […]

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