Was Carmelo Anthony auditioning for the Bulls?
Maybe. Maybe not. Whatever the case, he had an impressive night: a season-high 32 points on 11-for-22 shooting (including 1-for-1 from downtown and 9-for-9 from the line) to go along with 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocked shots and an assist. Oh, and 4 turnovers.
‘Melo was at his best in the third quarter, during which the Nuggets outscored the Bulls 27-18. Denver closed the quarter with a 12-0 run…and Anthony scored 10 of those points. He did it with back-to-back layups (the second of which was an old-fashioned three-point play), a three-pointer and a 22-foot jumper that gave the Nuggets a 70-68 lead going into the final quarter.
Well, we knew he was good.
Turns out Chicago has some pretty good players too. The Bulls had a balanced attack from their starting lineup of Derrick Rose (18 points, 6 assists), Keith Bogans (10 points, 4-for-7), Joakim Noah (13 points, 19 rebounds, 4 blocked shots), Taj Gibson (16 points, 7-for-12, 5 blocked shots) and Luol Deng (17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks).
Of course, Rose (7-for-21), Deng (6-for-18) and Noah (4-for-11) struggled to locate the basket. In act, Rose was 3-for-16 from the field after three quarters.
Then Derrick took over in the final six and a half minutes.
The Bulls had fallen behind 77-70 before going on a Rose-fueled fourth quarter run. With 6:26 to go, he hit a layup to pull Chicago to within two points (80-78). After Chauncey Billups canned a 20-footer, Rose hit another layup with 5:48 left to again pull the Bulls to within two (82-80).
On Chicago’s next possession, Rose assisted on a Ronnie Brewer dunk to tie the game (82-82) with 5:11 left. A few possessions later, Rose nailed a running seven-footer to give the Bulls a one-point lead (85-84) with 3:39 left. Following a free throw by Noah (86-84) and a dunk by Deng (88-84), Rose knocked down a 14-footer with 1:07 to go to put Chicago up 88-84.
Said Noah: “Derrick is our leader. His shot wasn’t falling but down the stretch, he put the game on his shoulders. That’s why he’s such a special player.”
Noah’s a pretty special player himself. Joakim had his sixth straight double-double — which currently leads the league — becoming the first Bulls player to accomplish that feat since Artis Gilmore did it in the first 11 games of the 1978-79 season. And Noah had three huge blocks during Chicago’s fourth quarter run, sending back two of Al Harrington’s layups and one by Melvin Ely. He also blocked a layup attempt by Anthony near the end of the third. (Unfortunately, ‘Melo nabbed the offensive board and put it back in).
There’s a word for guys like Noah: All-Star.
Said Anthony: “[Noah] blocks shots and holds the paint down. [He is an] energy guy who got 19 rebounds, you can’t ask more than that for a big guy.”
Careful, Carmelo. Nene’s going to get jealous.
Anyway, it was a tough, gritty win for the Bulls. A necessary win, considering the dreaded circus road trip is just around the corner.
The second quarter:
After being badly outscored during the second quarter of their first five games, the Bulls turned things around last night by outscoring the Nuggets 27-15 in the second to take a 50-43 halftime lead. Unfortunately, their second quarter scoring drought happened in the third quarter, which they lost 27-18.
The Bulls were a little better in this category last night…but only a little. Chicago gave up 17 points off 15 turnovers. Fortunately, they scored 24 points by forcing Denver into 18 turnovers.
The worst shot in basketball:
The Bulls shot only 41.5 percent from the field despite going 13-for-24 at the rim (54 percent), 4-for-7 inside 10 feet (57 percent), 2-for-4 from 10-to-15 feet (50 percent) and 5-for-13 on threes (nearly 40 percent). Their real struggles came in that dreaded 16-to-24 feet zone, where they went 10-for-34 (29 percent).
The 16-to-24 foot jumper is known as the worst shot in basketball for a reason, and 34 attempts from that range is probably too many, especially for Rose, who went 0-for-10.
The Rise of Taj:
Before the season, I said Gibson was a potential All-Star. Some people scoffed at that, but look at what he’s doing so far in his second season: 15.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.2 BPG and red-hot 63 percent shooting. Taj is currently ranked 4th in the NBA in field goal percentage. He makes smart plays and give the Bulls solid defense. He’s a major asset…especially in light of Boozer’s injury.
Free throw shooting:
Close games are exciting, but this one may have been more exiting than it needed to be. The Bulls missed key free throws down the stretch that gave the Nuggets life. In all, the Bulls missed 12 freebies, which is huge in a two-point win. On the season, the Bulls rank 28th in free throw percentage. That’s going to have to improve.