Were the Bulls suffering from an emotional hangover after their epic failure against the Kings on Monday night? Well, let me put it this way: the Knicks entered Tuesday night’s game ranked 22nd in Defensive Efficiency (106.5 Points Allowed Per 100 Possessions), and yet the Bulls staggered through a first quarter in which they scored only 12 points on 6-for-21 shooting while committing four turnovers. Chicago finished the first half with a point total (31) that was hardly bigger than their deficit (22).
I guess you could call that an emotional hangover.
In a reversal of the previous night’s debacle, the Bulls were the team who fought their way out of a huge crater. They did it behind the only three players who have been worth a darn this season: Derrick Rose scored 22 of his 26 points in the second half, Joakim Noah ripped down 21 rebounds to go with his 10 points, and Luol Deng added 23 points, 8 boards and 4 blocked shots. Those three guys accounted for all but nine of Chicago’s 50 second-half points.
Unfortunately, three was not enough. The Bulls actually pulled to within a point (80-79) on (gulp) one of Noah’s deadly Earthballs with 1:40 left, but that was as close as they could cut it. On New York’s next possession, Chris Duhon missed a layup, but David Lee snared the offensive board and got fouled by Joakim. The situation was eerily reminiscent of Jon Brockman’s offensive rebound that led to Tyreke Evans’ game-breaking 22-footer the previous night. Lee knocked down the foul shots and then it was a race against the clock. A race the Bulls lost.
So yeah, it was great the Bulls came back, but the end result was still another loss. All the team did was avoid some embarrassment. It reminds me of what Kevin McHale said after his Celtics almost came back against the Pistons in Game 6 of the 1991 Eastern Conference Semifinals: “Yeah, and the patient almost lived.”
In other words, moral victories are meaningless.
Noah seems to agree with McHale’s sentiment. He said the Bulls “definitely have a lot of soul searching to do” and added: “If you were my friend, I would tell you a lot of things, but I feel like if I say something, it’s just going to make things really bad. I’m not in a position as a player to really talk on that. We’re really going through hard times and I don’t want to make it even tougher.”
Huh. That doesn’t sound good.
Meanwhile, coach Vinny Del Negro sounded like he hit a “repeat” button from Monday night’s press conference: “We can’t play just a half of basketball. We’re not that good of a team to do that. We have to play consistently the whole game and we haven’t done that the last couple of nights and you usually get what you deserve, like I always say.”
Vinny had better hope that’s not true. For his sake. Otherwise, he might end up with a pink slip for Christmas.
Update! Check out this burning dis on Vinny and the team from Ken Burger of CBS Sports: “That wasn’t the only indictment of Del Negro that emerged Tuesday night. The most troubling, to me, came during the layup line. Less than 24 hours after blowing a 35-point lead on their home floor, the Bulls were clowning around during warmups as though they were getting ready to play the Rockettes. Miller, who contributed nothing but a scowl after tipoff, exerted more energy blocking shots and throwing alley-oop bounce passes than he did in the game. I learned two things from watching the Bulls’ layup drill: 1) Jannero Pargo can’t dunk, despite a half dozen of his best efforts; and 2) The Bulls are an undisciplined mess, a team that lacked the conscience to be ashamed of what happened to them the night before.”