Coach Tom Thibodeau will continue to say the Bulls have more than enough, but that has become a moot point now with three critical pieces for them remaining out and no clear timetable on when to expect a return. And this is excluding Derrick Rose, who found himself the topic of discussion prior to the game.
Kirk Hinrich, Richard Hamilton and Taj Gibson were all out once again, but the Bulls fought, found a way and hung on to beat the Utah Jazz 89-88.
Jimmy Butler’s offensive rebound off a Marco Belinelli missed runner set up a kick-out to Belinelli for a corner 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining, and wound up being the game-winner as Gordon Hayward’s shot attempt on the ensuing possession back-rimmed and was corralled by Butler.
Belinelli and Carlos Boozer led the way for the Bulls with 22 points each.
The latest in the Rose saga came from a report that had the point guard being medically cleared, but hesitant due to mental barriers. The pressure of his comeback heated up during a 5-8 Feb., but Thibodeau remained steadfast in his belief that the point guard’s status has no wear on his team.
“It’s just like a distraction. You could say that was the reason, or you could say that we went on the road,” Thibodeau said. “We played a lot of games on the road and we took on more injuries. You could also say that even though we took on the injuries and we were on the road, we were in position to win some of those games. We got to close them out better and that’s the way that I prefer to look at. We’re capable. We have enough to get the job done.”
The Bulls controlled the game the entire first half, building a 55-46 lead, before the Jazz took it to them in the second half by bullying their way inside – 19 of their 24 points in the third came in the paint or at the line – to cut the lead to a basket entering the fourth.
Utah took a five-point lead midway through the fourth quarter as it looked like the Bulls would run out of gas. A quick 8-2 run, capped by a 3 by Belinelli put them back ahead 84-83 with 5:03 remaining. Al Jefferson’s bucket with 51 seconds remaining put the Jazz ahead 88-86.
The Bulls came up short on two tries on their next possession and Jefferson would miss a field goal that set up the final offensive stand for Chicago.
Al Jefferson led Utah with 23 points and the Jazz’s bench outscored Chicago’s 49-10.
The Bulls also shot 37 percent, including 23 percent in the second half.
This one was truly about finding a way to win.