Life’s funny sometimes. Back in January when the Bulls were getting embarrassed at the United Center by cellar dwellers like the Timberwolves, Thunder and Raptors, I expended a lot of energy trying to find the silver lining around every defeat…even when the only positive was “the earth did not open up and swallow the team.” But now that the Bulls have become nearly unstoppable at home — they’ve won five straight and 12 of their last 13 in the Windy City — I’m actually becoming morecynical, particularly since their three most recent home victories were a little too close for comfort. Take last night’s 110-103 win over the Knicks, for instance.
I guess that any team can beat any other team on any given night. I mean, we do after all live in a world where the Charlotte Bobcats have some strange power over the Los Angeles Lakers. But still, with their playoff spot still technically on the line, I want to see the Bulls crushteams like the Pacers, Nets and Knicks, especially at home. Such is, I suppose, the burden of raised expectations, when even 12 victories in 13 tries can feel ominous rather than reason for high fives and fist bumping.
I’m really not trying to be negative. I just have a problem with letting the Knicks come into Chicago and shoot over 50 percent, particularly when guys like Wilson Chandler (11-for-15), Al Harrington (10-for-16) and Quentin Richardson (7-for-12) were knocking down shots like it was a morning practice. Chandler and Harrington even combined to drill seven out of their eight three-point attempts. It’s called a face, guys. Get a hand in it.
The Bulls ended up waiting until the last 12 minutes to start playing defense. They forced eight turnovers in the final quarter, which included five steals, and 16 of their 29 fourth-quarter points were scored off the Knicks’ miscues. In fact, New York bumbled the ball away 19 times last night, which resulted in 28 bonus points for Chicago. That’s what happens when rather marginal players get plugged into Mike D’Antoni’s fun-and-gun offense.
I just feel like a little complacency has set in. The Bulls were pretty lackadaisical on D until the fourth, when they went on a 15-0 run to take control of the game. But instead of putting the score out of reach, they pulled back on the throttle and let the Knicks get close enough that the game wasn’t decided until Tyrus Thomas blocked Quentin Richardson’s three-point attempt with 16 seconds left. A little more killer instinct would be nice. Of course, I understand they need to conserve a little energy, what with Luol still out and Tim Thomas missing due to a “family situation.” Guys are logging big minutes. I understand that. But it still worries me…
Hot: Kirk Hinrich came off the bench to score a team-high 25 points on 9-for-16 shooting. He also had three steals.
Not hot: Brad Miller grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds (including 6 on the offensive end) and dished out 4 assists. But went 1-for-10 from the field and missed four layups. Strangely enough, he still had by far the best plus-minus score on the team (+18).
Welcome to bizarro world: Tyrus scored 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting. But here’s the weird part: He went 0-for-4 on layups and 2-for-3 from outside.
Player notes: John Salmons finished with 19 points (7-for-16), 6 boards, 6 assists and 5 steals. Derrick Rose added 18 points (7-for-17) and 6 dimes. Ben Gordon chipped in with 17 points (6-for-15) and 5 rebounds. Speaking of boards, Joakim Noah grabbed 9 of them. Tyrus has all 4 of the team’s blocked shots.