The Revenge of Steve Nash: Suns 111, Bulls 105

Steve Nash gave D-Rose a lesson in fourth quarter heroics last night.

Steve Nash gave D-Rose a lesson in fourth quarter heroics last night.

Well, so much for Derrick Rose owning Steve Nash.

On paper, last night’s matchup of rising star versus former MVP looks kind of even. Rose finished with 23 points (7-for-16 from the field, 8-for-9 at the line), 5 rebounds, 10 assists and a steal. Nash had 22 points (8-for-20, 2-for-3 on threes, 4-for-4 from the stripe), 4 rebounds, 10 assists and 2 steals.

The battle wasn’t so close in terms of their plus-minus stats, where Nash was +12 and Rose was -3. And, of course, the final score went in favor of Captain Canada.

But numbers don’t really tell the story of how Nash almost single-handedly stole this game down the stretch. For most of the fourth quarter, it looked like the Bulls were going to live up to Derrick’s playoff prediction. Then, with just over five minutes remaining and Chicago clinging to a three-point lead, Nash took over.

Nash started by finding Amar’e Stoudemire (21 points, 11 rebounds) for a layup (Bulls 94, Suns 93). After a Brad Miller three, Nash hit a driving layup of his own (Bulls 97, Suns 95). After the two teams traded a few misses, Nash suckered in Chicago’s defense and then hit Jason Richardson (27 points, 10-for-19) for a three-pointer (Suns 98, Bulls 97).

Rose hit a short jumper, but then Nash countered by driving the lane hard and hitting a turnaround of his own (Suns 100, Bulls 99). Derrick came back with an aggressive drive to earn a couple free throws, both of which he hit (Bulls 101, Suns 100). However, Nash on-upped Rose by snaking into the paint for a scoop shot and the foul (Suns 103, Bulls 101 after Nash hit the freebie). Rose again went hard to the hole, earning and converting another pair of foul shots to tie the game at 103-103 with 59 seconds left.

Pretty exciting stuff, right?

Unfortunately for the Bulls, Nash wasn’t done. Now, did I mention that Kirk Hinrich left the game for good after spraining his left ankle by stepping on Joakim Noah’s foot in the second quarter? This meant Jannero Pargo was guarding Nash down the stretch. And by “guarding” I mean “usually watching Nash run right past him.”

Pargo might have been a cardboard cutout for all the trouble Nash had in maneuvering to wherever he wanted to go. Jannero could not stay in front of Nash, and, to be fair, the rest of the Bulls didn’t exactly amaze with their rotations. So with 41 seconds left, Nash pulled what seemed like the entire Chicago defense into the paint before finding Channing Frye for a wide-open three-pointer to put Phoenix ahead 106-103.

As soon as Frye’s shot went in, it felt like the Bulls were done. A three-point deficit down the stretch is deadly against a team that doesn’t shoot the three that well. Chicago made the right play out of the timeout, as Rose drove in for a quick layup to pull the Bulls to within a point with 37 seconds left. But Nash once again pulled all the Chicago defenders to him and dished to Grant Hill for a wide-open dunk with 23 seconds left. Suns 108, Bulls 105.

Then Rose blinked.

Perhaps feeling the pressure — and I mean really feeling it — for the first time all game, Rose forced a three-pointer with a Suns defender right in his face. Like, so in his face that Derrick had to double-clutch the shot attempt, which didn’t come anywhere close to going down. Phoenix ended up with the ball and the Bulls were forced to foul Nash, who naturally drilled both free throws to give his team a five-point lead with 13 seconds left. Game over.

Regarding his ill-advised three-pointer, Rose said: “I felt like I should take it. I had to adjust. In the future when that play comes around again, I’ll know what to do.”

Thanks to Nash, that future will probably have to be next season, because this loss was devastating to Chicago’s playoff chances. The Bulls only trail the eighth place Raptors by 1 1/2 games, but Toronto has a more favorable schedule down the stretch. No matter how you look at it, the Bulls are facing an uphill battle, especially with Luol Deng still out with a strained calf and Hinrich’s status unknown.

Give Derrick credit, though. He’s keeping his chin up.

Said Rose: “It’s hard right now. But, you can’t think about it like that. We play soon [at New Jersey tonight]. And that’s what I’m thinking about [Wednesday] to let [the team] know our heads can’t be down. We came out and played our hardest tonight. We played and competed tonight. We didn’t execute our plays like we were supposed to. They did. They won.

“I’m actually going to go back to the Berto [Center] right now and shoot with some of my friends. Hopefully [Wednesday] in practice talk to [the team]. Everybody needs to get involved and win some games.”

The sad thing is, everybody was involved. Flip Murray was fantastic off the bench (23 points, 9-for-12, 9 rebounds, 4 assists). Joakim Noah looked like his old self, finishing with four dunks, a couple blocked shots, and a double-double (12 points, 10 boards). Taj Gibson had a double-double of his own (14 points, 10 rebounds). Pargo even hit a couple threes to help the Bulls recover from an early deficit.

Earlier in the season, this loss might have counted as a moral victory. But Chicago doesn’t have the margin of error left for that. Moral victories aren’t going to earn them a trip to the postseason. Only real victories will.

Update! Here are some thoughts from By The Horns reader and guest author Tony C.: “I also consider the final few minutes to have been an illustration of why Rose hasn’t fully arrived yet as a star. Yes, it’s true that he isn’t a stellar defensive player, but he should have TOLD Vinny and the team that HE would guard Nash. Then he should have gone out there, adrenaline pumping, and done his hyper-athletic best to shut Nash down. If the Suns had beaten us with someone else knocking in shots, so be it. But to allow the player who was obviously going to to attempt to take control of the game to do just that was inexcusable, and I believe that if Rose was a true leader at this stage, he would have at least tried to step up and assert himself on defense.”

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21 Responses to The Revenge of Steve Nash: Suns 111, Bulls 105

    Tony C. March 31, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    It was, of course, impossible for Bulls fans not to be frustrated while watching this game down the stretch. The most obvious frustration was having to watch defensive wizard Jannero Pargo guarding Nash down the stretch. How many times did Nash need to abuse him before Vinny (or anyone with functioning vision) saw that it was a disastrous matchup?

    And while Matt is correct that the Bulls rotations were often poor, that, to me, misses an important and obvious point: why not sag off of Nash and make him beat you with outside shots? He wasn’t shooting the ball very well, and is obviously less dangerous shooting outside than driving for layups or easy dishes.

    I also consider the final few minutes to have been an illustration of why Rose hasn’t fully arrived yet as a star. Yes, it’s true that he isn’t a stellar defensive player, but he should have TOLD Vinny and the team that HE would guard Nash. Then he should have gone out there, adrenaline pumping, and done his hyper-athletic best to shut Nash down. If the Suns had beaten us with someone else knocking in shots, so be it. But to allow the player who was obviously going to to attempt to take control of the game to do just that was inexcusable, and I believe that if Rose was a true leader at this stage, he would have at least tried to step up and assert himself on defense.

    Finally, for the moment, who the hell wants to watch and listen to most ignorant ex-players and talking heads WHILE THE GAME IS ACTUALLY BEING PLAYED? The geniuses at NBA TV decide that LATE IN A CLOSE GAME the audience would prefer to watch and listen to Chris Webber, et al spout inanities, rather than watch and listen to the actual game? I can’t express (without using expletives) just how irritating those sort of directing choices are (and TNT is just as bad).

    Rocky March 31, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    Nash started getting comfortable only because Captain Kirk went down.

    Alex R March 31, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    The game was great to watch last night. Lots of highlights on both ends of the court and the Bulls really made them work for the “W”.

    As for Pargo’s Defense, can you really blame him? He, and the rest of the bench gave the Bulls a solid lift in the 2nd quarter to outscore the Suns big. With Hinrich leaving early because of his ankle,(seriously what’s with the low top shoes Kirk?), Pargo was the obvious choice to guard Nash. Rose’s perimeter D is still pretty poor so I’m sure Rose was glad that he wasn’t abused by Nash last night. The Bulls lost because their Defense folded in the last minutes and their execution out of the timeout’s was horrible. They scripted a play for their attempt to tie it at the end and it ended with a double pump Three attempt by Rose and then was juggled out of bounds by two Bulls players. I’m pretty sure Rose and Noah were the last two people on the floor for the Bulls who were to shoot that shot but they each got a piece.

  4. chad March 31, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    i don’t know who was guarding nash early, but pargo was guarding him late, which makes del negro an idiot. the smartest thing del negro did this season was bench pargo most the time till march came. he probably should have played a couple more minutes than he had been playing, but not 30 minutes! del negro must have felt bad for benching him so much and feels like he owes him something. del negro is being tricked, he sees pargo make a shot and thinks he is providing them with offense. what he is providing them with is someone who shoots the ball every time he gets the ball, so of course a few will go in. guess we got larry hughes back. 5-15 shooting, that does not earn you 30 minutes of playing time, plus just 1 assist. rose got 10. pargo makes one shot and then he thinks he has to shoot it every time instead of looking for rose. but things would have all worked out if we knew how to stop phoenix at the end. why was pargo in the game at the end, if he had to be in the game why wasnt he guarding someone else. acie law would have guarded nash better, even flip murray. anything but a layup. they have to be smarter at the end of games. i don’t blame rose for taking a shot, but coach should have told them to go for a quick layup and if it is contested kick it out for a 3. rose still is not a 3 point shooter. if we were going to shoot a 3 it should be an open 3, not with 14 seconds left, but with less than 8 seconds left. even if rose had made it, with 14 seconds left, nash would have just went for another layup to win the game. smart teams know to keep the ball away from nash when you are trying to foul. if the bulls were thinking they would have double teamed nash on the inbounds pass so he couldnt get the ball and make 2 free throws to ice the game. we pretty much have to drive to the basket whenever we need 3 points, could draw a foul, percentages are low that we’d make a 3 pointer. bulls 3 point shooting this year: Salmons 38%, Deng 38%, too bat they’re not around. Murray 36%, Hinrich 35%, Law and JJ 33%, Miller 30%, Rose 28%, Pargo 27%, Devin Brown over 40% in November December 2009, but then he cooled off and sucked as a bull. So 2 things are obvious, Pargo shoots 27% from 3 meaning he should stop shooting it so much. Also Rose just 28%, so Murray or Miller should have been shooting it at the end if we were going to shoot a 3 pointer. That, also Vinny’s fault. Playoff race is going to be very tough, we need to win almost every game. Probably both against Charlotte and for sure the game against Toronto. Also have a few tough ones against Cleveland and Boston. Milwaukee won’t be easy either. We can’t afford to lose games that we nearly won. Looks like we could end up missing the playoffs by 1 game, making that loss to New Jersey, that 35 point blown lead to Sacramento, and that game when Brad Miller made a great shot barely too late, hurt even worse. Charles wasn’t there to see the Bulls look a lot better yesterday than they did against Miami, if he had seen yesterday he would not call the Bulls terrrible. He would just say Pargo is terrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrible.

    Alex R March 31, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    Chad, perhaps you didn’t see that Hinrich was out of the game with an ankle sprain. Honestly, with the way Pargo had been playing last night he deserved to play as much as he did. It was the Flip and Pargo show all the way through to the 3rd quarter. And let me reiterate, Rose has poor perimeter defense, much worse than Pargo.

    Tony C. March 31, 2010 at 4:13 pm #

    One more thing: I know from painful, first-hand (or should I say foot?) experience that sprained ankles don’t heal quickly. Ligaments and tendons take time to tighten up, etc., so why, having turned his ankle twice recently, was Kirk wearing low-cut shoes? Yes, yes, I know all about taping, but there’s a reason why the vast majority of players wear high-tops.

    I’m really beginning to think that replacing the Bulls’ current trainer(s) should be high up on the off-season agenda.

  7. chad March 31, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    i knew hinrich left the game. bulls are wimps with all the guys who dont play. i didnt say rose should guard nash. acie law can defend.

    bobbysimmons March 31, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    Yeah what kind of trainer’s do we have that don’t command a 29 year old basketball player who’s been playing all his life to wear different shoes….he knows the difference between high tops and low cut shoes, and I think he’s mature enough that he doesn’t need a trainer to tell him what is best for his feet. It’s also the trainers fault that Johnson burst off and tore his plantar fascia, and of course it’s their fault that they didn’t have the premonition that Noah and Taj who as far as I know have never suffered from plantar fasciitis, would all of a sudden get it, besides it’s not something you can effectively preemptively treat, you basically just need rest.

    Kevin March 31, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    I haven’t been watching enough games lately due to my busy schedule, but a question has been popping in my head whenever I watch the highlights: Have the new guys (Murray, Warrick) been doing more auditioning than playing? This occasionally can happen with guys who get traded, are in contract years and aren’t part of a team’s long term plans. Have they been grabbing rebounds or playing defense? I’ve been noticing verbal eyebrows being raised on NBATV, ESPN, Daily Dime, etc. about how many points Flip Murray has been scoring and thoughts like “Eddie Robinson??” pop into my head… I’ve also been noticing how the Bull’s defense since has been talked of as “atrocious” since the trade…..

  10. TexasBullsFan March 31, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    Hey Chad, weren’t you the one advocating how amazing Tyrus was and how he’d be a wonder now that he’s with a coach who will “treat him like a son?” How’s that working out for ya? Pft.

    As to being “wimps”, I really don’t know what to say. These guys are all professionals who’ve been playing basketball for the majority of their lives. If they can’t go, they can’t go. I’ve never bought into the “they’re just a wimp and they don’t want to play.” Kirk is one of the best defenders and best attitude guys on this team. He’s always taking flak about his offensive production, he’s constantly the subject of trade rumors, no one seems to want him in Chicago, but he keeps his mouth shut and does his job. He’s earned the benefit of the doubt from me.

    And really, why is anyone so worked up about the playoffs? Why do we care about making it as an 8 seed? So we can see how quickly Cleveland can bounce us? Get real folks, even if we stumbled into the playoffs on our walking wounded team, Cleveland would mop up the floor with us and we’d be home in 4. It wouldn’t even be remotely close.

    As to the “we have to make it or no free-agents will wanna come here” drivel, do we honestly think that free agents can’t see the huge number of injuries we’ve had this year? That they just don’t get that? When this team is healthy, it’s a pretty good team. It’s a good team now, despite being the Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Kirk Hienrich and Joakim Noah show with a dozen expiring contracts. We’ve got most of our starters hurt or not playing. Free agents will notice this; they’re not that stupid.

    Tony C. March 31, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    bobbysimmons –

    First, you are naïve if you believe that trainers are not involved in decision-making about the type of equipment players use.

    Secondly, to use just one specific example, Noah was out of action for 17 days with PF and returned on February 20th. He played seven minutes that game, 12 minutes two days later, then seven again two days later. On February 26th against Portland, he played 27 minutes, re-injured himself, and was out of action until March 20th.

    Who do you think cleared Noah to play for 27 minutes when his total aggregate playing time for the previous 23 days had been 26 minutes? Do you think that VDN overruled the trainers? Do you think that it was a wise decision to clear him to play that much under the circumstances?

    Defend them all you like; I’ve seen enough.

    SnakeEyes March 31, 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    As a guy living in Toronto, I need to mail Steve Nash a gift. He did everything in his power to make sure the Raptors get into the playoffs.

    bobbysimmons March 31, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    Tony, though I don’t know for sure, I’d imagine the trainers and players collaborate on the equipment they use. As you say the Hinrich has twice rolled his ankle, don’t you think he might ask himself, ‘maybe I should wear higher shoes?’ Since he ended up not doing that he probably though the cons outweighed the pros, likely in consultation with the trainers. They may now reconsider again after this incident.

    As for Noah’s plantar fasciitis, your explanation would seem reasonable for say a muscle strain or sprained ankle, but plantar fasciitis is different. It’s not acutely aggravated by a little extra work one night, it occurs over time. It’s not that the fascia is torn or stretched, just inflamed due to overuse, thus playing 27 mins that night most likely did not re-injure him, it just brought to everyone’s attention that he wasn’t fully recovered, and thus they decided to shelve him and treat him for a few more weeks until he felt closer to 100%. In fact I think the trainers have generally done a good job, Noah is playing longer minutes now without pain as far as I know, and Taj hasn’t missed any time with his injury, so they must be doing something right with their treatments. In JJ’s case, he doesn’t have plantar fasciitis, he actually partially tore his plantar fascia. Of course I don’t know exactly what transpired with Noah, this is more just my speculation.

    dlouis March 31, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    Re: Shoes
    Players will wear whatever shoes they want. I’m sure they will consider the advice ofthe training staff, but at the end of the day, they will wear whatever they feel most comfortable in. You can’t blame Hinrich’s injury on the shoes. He landed on Noah’s ankle. If he were wearing boots he still would have hurt himself. ThiS kind of stuff happens.

    As for Pargo’s lack of defense, VDN had few options. Considering the situation, Pargo was a better option than Law. I would rather have Pargo’s inconsistant shooting and experience than Law. Pargo’s a vet who has played in these situations in NO. If Rose played Nash, Pargo would have been a liability on the outside shooters.

    It sucks that we lost, but at least it was an entertaining game, and it seems like players are gettig a better appreciation ofthe Bulls and especially Rose. I didn’t watch NBATV, bt from what I heard they were very complimentary of Rose. We all know that this season is more about the future than the present, and it helps that we have been playing relatively well considering the injuries.

  15. chicagofansaremeatheads March 31, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    Mr. McHale and certain other readers of this blog,

    It seems to me that you look a lot for what Derrick Rose isn’t and not at what he is, which is one of the best and most exciting young players in the league. The Bulls would not even be competitive at all if he was not on the team.

    As I read this blog the last 2 years all I’ve seen is people talk about what Rose doesn’t do. He doesn’t shoot well, he doesn’t make 3pters, he doesn’t set up his teammates, he doesn’t play defense. Yet even when he makes himself better at these you still complain. How about holding some of the older, more paid players accountable for something?

    I know as a fan you want your team to be the best, but lets be realistic, he is the best thing the Bulls have by far.

    Of course if Matt had his way, we would be reading how Beasley isn’t what he should be.

    Matt McHale April 1, 2010 at 12:03 am #

    chicagofansaremeatheads — For starters, I’ve already owned up to my mistake concerning Beasley. The Bulls needed a scoring forward (don’t they always), and he seemed to fit that need. Obviously, he was a headcase and even now isn’t quite ready to be a consistent NBA player.

    As for Derrick, I think my affection for the kid should be pretty obvious if you read this blog on a regular basis. Wanting more out of him, hoping to see him reach his potential sooner than later, is natural.

    Of course, everybody on a team is accountable for that team’s performance. But Rose’s ceiling is far higher than anybody else on the club, and so expectations naturally will be higher as well.

    inkybreath April 1, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    My dislike for Pargo has grown consistently over the year (Liked the guy previously, he did a good job last couple years) and I appreciated his effort for the first three quarters. What is his problem at the end of games? There was a very important stretch in the fourth quarter (latter part, maybe?) where Pargo would not let go of the ball. It was so bizarre to me. I had witnessed him do this while Rose was out and I thought that to be almost understandable, considering the added pressure. It was so bad at this point that Murray got the offensive rebound on Pargo’s shot and could have easily passed out to the top-side of the key to Pargo to reset. But, to me, it looked like there was no way Murray was letting him have the ball. And, it became a difficult play set because of that … and to give Murray credit, not too far after, he make a nice pass to Pargo in the corner for a three. But still, he knew he had to keep the ball from Pargo (again, my opinion) for a play to cool his jets. I really wrecked the flow that was going on and I’ve seen him do it too many times. Murray can get into this mode too, but he is a more realistic heat-checker (and a more competent finisher, all-around, imho). I think I am going to start calling Pargo ‘Thermostat’. So, Pargo is fooling himself. He is too excited, being around Rose. You all have seen those little moments, where Pargo is at the top of the set and he busts out a really fast dribble move, with some through the legs action, then it goes off his foot and he retreats to midcourt to restart. To me, those moments unhinged the game, deeply. And, can someone tell me why Noah ends up with the in-bounds pass at the top of the key at the end of the game, when Miller is in? Pass in to Miller and you have options galore compared to Noah. I don’t mind passing into Noah at all throughout most of the game, but not in this one-shot situation. That was a brutal mistake, in my book. Noah had no options, with everyone well covered. Miller could have created a 3 point shot so easily in duress. Wow.

    Okay, still liked the way they played most of the game and really held that lead for a long time. Good on that …

    Iain April 1, 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    In regard to tony C’s comment in the extra’s section. Nash didn’t ask to guard Rose either who scored the Bulls last 8 points and single handedly keeping the Bulls in it down the stretch. So is Nash not a star either? Does Nash ever assert himself defense?

    Tony C. April 1, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    Iain –

    I’m quite open to criticism, but I don’t find your point to be compelling.

    Steve Nash is 36 years old, has never been an especially strong defender, and his team was not without the services of their best defensive guard(s).

    Rose is young, exceptionally athletic, has the potential to be a very good defensive player, and could have chosen to step up in Kirk’s absence.

    The main point was not that Rose would have necessarily stopped Nash, but that true stars are leaders, and it would have shown leadership had he sought out that challenge. Think Magic when Kareem went down.

    Boppinbob April 2, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    I am getting very tired of both management and VDN not finding out what the young guys at the end of the bench can do. Playing Pargo is a waste of time. I am ready to get on the bandwagon to get rid of VDN, Pax and Pax’s mouthpiece. The Bulls are going no place this season. It is time to find out who has something to offer for the future. I realize that Noah probably wants to play desparately, but he should be allowed to fully heal. Joe Alexander deserves an audition for a position next year. Does Acie Law have anything to contribute for the future? Is VDN trying to save his job by making the playoffs? If he is it is at the cost of the future. Management should have stepped up and discussed this with VDN. It is apparent that they haven’t. Maybe they think that the team needs to make the playoffs for management to keep their jobs. I have joined the ranks of the dump Pax and company including VDN.

  21. chad April 2, 2010 at 4:21 am #

    maybe when we were trying to dump contracts at the trade deadline we could have gotten someone who can play defense cause we are very weak on defense aside from a healthy noah and gibson and hinrich. we need to be able to put guys into the game at the end who are defensive players, then when we get the ball back we can call time out and bring in someone who can shoot. then we don’t blow all these games at the end where we allow easy layups or double team guys leading to wide open 3’s. did the bulls realize that they traded away 2 of their best defenders, so they needed to get a defender in return. flip and hakim are ok, certainly better than pargo. acie law is also better defensively than pargo. so pargo needs to be on the bench on defense every time possible. i wish we had something better to choose from, if we had traded for nate robinson he can shoot just as good as pargo and he makes less mistakes and defends better. so what if he’s a couple inches shorter. better yet, why didn’t we trade for camby, he is everything the bulls drafted tyrus to some day become. portland got camby from the clippers for total crap (steve blake and travis outlaw). what did portland do when they got camby, they went from a team 5 games over 500 to a team 17 games over 500. 7 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1.3 steals per game is what camby gets. that’s practically another noah, without plantar fagitis. defenders are so undervalued, no one realizes how many games they save. we don’t have the defense to make the playoffs, yet we believe free agency will save us. we better get some defense in the offseason, cause just getting some 25 point scorer is not going to make the bulls a championship contender, it would only make us good enough to win maybe 1 series or lose an exciting first round series like what having ben gordon and his offense did for us. we better get some defense, or it was a very bad idea to make the salmons trade to save that money for next year. he is a good player, and doesn’t make a lot of money, a good second half of the season player who can play some defense. i still like tyrus, but my main concern now is we got no defense, especially when a few of our guys gets hurt, which is pretty much always. guess paxson has always thought that camby is about to decline with his age, and he don’t wanna be run out of town trading for another ben wallace over the hill guy, but camby continues to be a solid defender every year and he keeps getting traded for nothin, i don’t know why everyone keeps trading him. clippers are idiots. this is it bulls, better go on that winning streak now, or it really will be too late to come back. now or never. doesn’t look good.

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