Game Recap: Bulls 99, Hornets 95

Beware those scrappy teams, huh?

Despite being 8-26 on the year and only 5-12 away from their hive, the Hornets buzzed into the United Center and nearly knocked the Bulls on their championship-hopeful butts last night.

You have to wonder whether it should have been this hard. The Bulls were finally at full strength — welcoming back Rip Hamilton and C.J. Watson — and playing in a building where they’re 14-2. What’s more, Derrick Rose’s driving layup put them ahead 91-82 with 5:16 left in the fourth quarter.

Less than four minutes and a 13-0 run later, the Bulls found themselves trailing 95-91.

Chicago’s offense was (as Charles Barkley might say) turrible during that stretch. Joakim Noah missed an 11-footer and had his shot swatted by Gustavo Ayon during back-to-back possessions. On their next offensive possession, Chris Kaman blocked Luol Deng’s jumper. Then it was Rose’s turn to brick a jump shot. Next Carlos Boozer had the ball stolen by Trevor Ariza. On the Bulls’ next trip down the floor, Gustavo stuffed Boozer. Boozer got the offensive board but missed the putback. Ditto for Noah.

It was ugly basketball, folks.

But, hey, that’s why teams have superstars.

Starting at the 1:15 mark, Rose and the Chicago defense took over. Rose drew a foul from Chris Kaman and knocked down both free throws to pull the Bulls to within two points. After that, Noah nabbed a bad pass by Jarrett Jack and finished the following offensive possession by tipping in a missed floater by Rose, tying the game. Twleve seconds later, Taj Gibson blocked a layup attempt by Gustavo. One 20-second timeout later, Rose and Noah worked together on a nifty play that ended with Rose hitting a very tough shot that bounced on the rim before dropping down the well.

Bulls by two.

Said Rose: “I take crazy shots like that in practice all the time, they just give me confidence to take those shots where they are looking for me. We work on that in the end of practice. I stepped back and tried to shoot the ball up as high as I could.”

Jack went on to miss a layup. Kaman was forced to foul Rose, who knocked down both freebies, and then Deng stole a bad pass by Ariza to pretty much seal the deal (despite two missed foul shots by Rose).

And there you have it. File this one under “finding a way to win.”

Said Rose: “We definitely held it together. Other teams I guess would have folded. We played toward the end I think the best defense we played throughout the whole game. We rebounded the ball, made great plays on the ball. … We gave ourselves a chance.”

Yeah, and that’s great and all, but should it this group have to give itself a chance against a team like the Hornets?

Said Noah: “Just because we’re the Chicago Bulls doesn’t mean that we’re going to win every game by 30. Guys are good. This is the NBA. We know that we have a ways to go. We have to play better to get to where we want to get to.”

Jo’s right about that last part. Especially with the Miami Heat steamrolling whoever they face right now.

Having a full roster should help. With Rose (32 points, 9 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks), Noah (15 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists), Deng (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Boozer (14 points, 7 boards) playing well and Hamilton getting worked back into the mix, the Bulls should get nothing but better.

Of course, watching the Bulls nearly get outworked by the Hornets was worrisome. Hopefully, it’ll serve as a wake-up call for their game against the Spurs tonight. Unfortunately, Deng (42 minutes), Rose (41) and Noah (39) all logged heavy PT against New Orleans. Let’s hope fatigue doesn’t decide how things unfold in San Antonio.

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