Okay, I didn’t see that coming…

Rose

Allow me to state up front that I fully expected the Bulls to lose in Phoenix last night. In fact, I was so certain of the outcome that I wrote my lead-in for this post while on my way to T.G.I. Fridays to watch the game. Here, I’ll share it with you: “On Thursday night, the Suns lost a hotly contested game to their arch-nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs. They were bound to be angry. So, against that backdrop, the beating they administered to the Bulls really wasn’t that surprising. I mean, let me put it this way: If you were the Riddler, would you want to face Batman right after he got his butt kicked by the Joker? No, I didn’t think so.”

Good call, huh? I’m suddenly glad I didn’t place any bets on the Super Bowl. So what in the name of Lincoln’s wart happened? I suppose it’s possible I cast a wholly unintentional (though ultimately rewarding) stat curse on the Suns. But still, a 122-111 Bulls win was way outside the realm of my wildest imagination. Seriously, I would have been less surprised if Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster had gotten married by the Phoenix Gorilla during an elaborate but tasteful halftime ceremony.

Here’s the story: The Bulls scored a season-high in points while shooting 50 percent from the field, 47 percent from three-point range, and 90 percent from the line. They won the rebounding battle 42-35 (including 12 offensive boards, which led to a 14-2 advantage in second-chance points in the first half alone). They also forced 14 turnovers, which resulted in 19 extra points. Meanwhile, they committed only 9 turnovers (for 7 points) themselves. So, basically, they did everything a team needs to do to win on the road. Or at home. Or on the moon. Hustle. Execution. Success. In short, everything we’ve come to NOT expect from the 2008-09 Chicago Bulls. Go figure.

Vinny Del Negro, who just two days ago was getting zero love from team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, said: “Whenever you can win, it builds confidence.” So not only did he coach his team to a big win and thus buy himself a little more time as the Bulls’ headmaster, he also rated a solid eight on the Dull-Negrometer. You go, Vinny!

DNM8

Just like in their game against the Kings, several Bulls got a chance to pad their stats. Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose both scored 26 points. Luol Deng had a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds). The Chicago reserves put up 39 points, led by Kirk Hinrich (15), Thabo Sefolosha (11) and Andres Nocioni (11). And Araron Gray added his obligatory 2 points and 4 fouls. So good times all around.

Rose, though, was semi-phenomenal…running, dunking, and hitting little floaters over The Big All-Star that Mke McGraw has dubbed the “Shaq in the box.” Sure, Rose hurt his foot and sat out the final 6:41, but his play impressed. And regarding his running one-handers over Shaq, Rose said: “I used to do that in Memphis. Shaq is a big person to shoot over, then there’s Amare (Stoudemire). I’m good with floaters, so that’s why I shot it. Last year, watching (college teammates) Chris Douglas-Roberts do it, I just got used to it.” Hey, whatever works, Derrick. And everything was working for the Bulls last night.

Make no mistake: This win was an historic event. For starters, it marked the first time that the Bulls have won three in a row since April 6, 2007. It was also the first time since 1996-97 that Chicago has swept the season series from Phoenix. After losing their season-high fifth straight game at Minnesota, the Bulls have won three straight games by more than 17 points per contest…all on the road. I know. It makes no sense. Speaking of which: The Bulls have won nine of their last 10 games against teams that are above .500. That’s quite an accomplishment for a group that’s only 21-27 this season.

Meanwhile, the Suns are on the bad side of history. They’ve lost two straight and seven of their last 10 games.  They’ve dropped three in a row at home for the first time this season. Worse yet, the loss gave them their first losing month since April 2004. And it’s sort of a mystery as to what happened to them. I mean, Phoenix shot 52 percent as a team. Leandro Barbosa scored a season-high 32 points. Steve Nash had 15 points and 10 assists. Shaq contributed 18 and 8 before fouling out. Grant Hill chipped in with 19 points, 5 boards and 5 assists.

But in the end, the Suns simply got out-worked by a Bulls team that wanted it more than they did. And Phoenix coach Terry Porter was left to ponder his team’s low-energy output: “We talked about coming out and having energy and setting a tone, but we just didn’t do it. At times, we just allowed those guys to keep building confidence, confidence and confidence. It was a disappointing loss for us.”

One team’s disappointment is another team’s success. Regardless of what happens in the next three games of this seven-game road trip, the Bulls just might have the chance to turn a season dubbed a “disaster” and “embarrassing” into something special.

Extras: Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos. For more coverage, see Michael Schwartz’s recap at Valley of the Suns.

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5 Responses to Okay, I didn’t see that coming…

  1. remexlar@gmail.com'
    Victor February 1, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    Phoenix got 40 free throws versus the Bulls 22 (18 or so before Phoenix had to desperation foul). Amare Stoudemire should try this new thing called boxing out so he doesn’t get out-rebounded by guys like Deng and Sefolosha while playing a game high 43 minutes, especially since Thomas and Noah missed significant time with foul trouble.

  2. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale February 1, 2009 at 5:20 pm #

    Victor — I have officially dubbed Shaq “The Big David Copperfield”…since he’s made Amare Stoudemire disappear.

  3. JR February 2, 2009 at 10:17 am #

    According to suns blogs around the web the team is officially in crisis talks after that loss. Is there a word of the day for when your team is thought of as so bad that when they beat a middling team that team’s administration immediately goes into crisis mode?

    Pretty sure I read somewhere that after the game Kerr was rushed onto Air Force Sun and taken to an undisclosed location. That or murdered in a dark alley. Don’t worry, Nash’s alibi is tight.

  4. davebadasslarson@yahoo.com'
    BadDave February 2, 2009 at 2:47 pm #

    Shouldn’t it be the Dull-Fuego Meter? How fast he can put out the fires of passion in basketball?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Bulls 122, Suns 111 – Another dead end| Valley of the Suns - February 1, 2009

    [...] Reinsdorf rips the Bulls and they win two games in two nights, with the Suns game being an inspired effort by a talented team that has underachieved all season. Just ask a Bulls fan. [...]

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