This was a typical weekend in the life of the 2008-09 Chicago Bulls: A frustrating road loss to an opponent they probably should have beaten followed by an overpowering home win over an opponent they probably shouldn’t have. Chances are scientists will discover the Higgs boson and uncover the secrets of interstellar travel before anyone manages to figure out this Bulls team. Believe it or not, though, I was semi-proud of the way they performed in Philly on Friday night. Sixer legends Dr. J, Moses Malone and Bobby Jones were on hand to watch their former team close out the Spectrum. Playing against a juiced up team under those conditions isn’t easy.
But despite a career-high 31 points from Thaddeus Young, Chicago held tough, overcoming a 13-point deficit and tying the game at 101 on a Ben Gordon three-pointer with 36 seconds left. Unfortunately, as has so often been the case this season, the Bulls couldn’t finish. Brad Miller hacked Andre Iguodala, who hit one out of two at the line, and then Derrick Rose got a layup attempt stuffed by Samuel Dalembert, which led to an easy fast break layup for Young. That put the Bulls down three (104-101) with 16 seconds left, and I probably don’t need to tell you that their final play was a three by Gordon (from 29 feet out) that…didn’t go in. Game over.
On Saturday night, the Bulls didn’t need to worry about executing down the stretch. They used an 18-0 run in the second quarter along with a 17-0 eruption across the third and fourth quarters to coast to a comfy-cozy 97-79 home win over the New Orleans Hornets. Chicago hit 10 threes and got 51 combined points from Gordon (11-for-17) and John Salmons (9-for-15).
So…the Bulls are a playoff team at the United Center and a lottery team pretty much everywhere else. Okay then. That may work out in Chicago’s favor — in terms of qualifying for the postseason – since nine of their last 14 games are at home. Of course, two of those contests are against the Celtics (on Tuesday) and Lakers (next Saturday), so that could nullify any advantage they might have had. But as it is, they’re still in a “virtual tie” with the Bucks (although they trail by 0.001 of a percentage point) for the last playoff spot in the East, a game up on the Nets, a game-and-a-half up on the Knicks and Bobcats, and two-and-a-half games up on the Pacers. Stay tuned.
Fun fact: Derrick Rose has now won his head-to-head debuts against Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Devon Harris, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash this season.