Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010
Updated 2:18 AM
By Aggrey Sam
PHOENIX Listening to the jubilant U.S. Airways Center visitors locker room, you would think divine intervention was the reason for the Bulls thrilling 123-115 double-overtime win over the Suns.
God was on our side, I guess, opined a thoughtful Joakim Noah.
Were blessed to get this win, remarked Derrick Rose.
In reality, the higher power in the triumph was the teams chemistry.
After starting the game down 25-6 to a Phoenix squad that appeared to be reliving its 10 seconds or less contender heyday with NBA playmaker emeritus Steve Nash (14 points, 16 assists) serving as maestro and former Bull Hakim Warrick burning his old team for 23 first-half points (although he would go scoreless afterwards) the shellshocked Bulls knew they had an uphill battle to fight.
And fight they did.
Nash, hes the best pick-and-roll player in the NBA. Hes an unbelievable player and I think by switching, you make him more of a one-on-one player and take away all his little bounce passes. Hakim Warrick was really killing us in the first half until we started switching out. It worked for us tonight, said Noah, who came up with 17 points, 15 rebounds and an especially significant five assists in the absence of usual tag-team partner Taj Gibson, who was sidelined with a right ankle injury.
One thing about this team is you can really look at yourself in the mirror and say, win or lose, we make mistakes, but were giving everything weve got to try to win and thats a great feeling, Noah continued.
We just kept fighting. It wasnt going our way, but were the type of team thats grimy and were never going to stop, said Rose, who finished with a game-high 35 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists before fouling out. We can be down 20 points, 30 points we never want to be in that situation, but we were forced to be in that situation by the way that we were playing were going to come back.
We knew that we could go out there and play better. Not to say anything bad about them, but we knew we could come back on that team. We always played hard throughout the whole game, except in the beginning when we gave them the lead, and we never turned around, continued Rose, who attributed the teams sluggish start to fatigue from the back-to-back game sequence, as they lost a hard-fought contest to the Lakers the previous night on the continuation of the teams seven-game road trip.
A strong effort from the second unit sharpshooter Kyle Korver broke out of a single-game funk, rookie center Omer Asik played his usual stout interior defense and even seldom-used second-year forward James Johnson may have earned his way back into the regular rotation with his energetic effort and timely contributions propelled Chicagos gradual slicing of an initially overwhelming deficit.
When youre down like that, you just start playing free. Our second unit came in and played really hard, said Korver, who scored 24 points coming off an uncharacteristic 1-for-6 outing the previous night in Los Angeles and also contributed five rebounds and three steals. Obviously last night, some guys played a lot of minutes, it was a late night and we came out a little bit tired. The second unit came in, played well, kind of picked us up a little bit.
Despite the best efforts of Suns veterans like Grant Hill (team-high 27 points, eight rebounds), Jason Richardson (20 points, seven rebounds) and Channing Frye (16 points, seven rebounds), the Bulls made a furious comeback or two, as their initial push to make the game a single-digit contest was thwarted, leading to yet another charge prior to the games stretch run to turn the tables on Phoenix, shocking the home crowd.
The play of Rose and Luol Deng carried the Bulls offensive load late in regulation, with the former living up to his growing national profile and All-Star status by hitting two clutch free throws to match a pair of Nashs on the previous possession and send the game into its first overtime.
Coach always says hes preparing us, said Deng, who poured in 26 points and snatched 10 rebounds to break out of a slight offensive slump, of Thibodeaus foreshadowing. We practice so hard. Since Ive been in the NBA, Ive never been on a team that practices so hard and thats what prepares you for nights like this.
A back-and-forth first extra session appeared to be going the Suns way the home team was up two points and only 4.3 seconds remained, despite the Bulls owning possession of the ball out of a timeout but Noah, in the high post, would patiently find a cutting Rose backdoor for a reverse layup with just 0.1 seconds on the clock to tie the contest.
Derrick Rose reacts after fouling out in the second overtime vs. Phoenix Wednesday night. Rose scored 35 points, pulled 12 rebounds and dished out seven assists to help the Bulls earn the victory. (AP)Actually, I was supposed to run off the screen. Kyle Korver set a screen for me, but Grant Hill was playing the top side, so I just cut and I was wide open, explained Rose. Jos a good passer, Im good without the ball, he just threw me the ball and I guess I made a good layup."
That was nice, added a smiling Noah he claimed he never looked at the waning seconds on the clock when asked about the play. I think me and Derrick, were pretty good at that. Its a good play because they dont want Derrick coming over the top and getting the ball in his hands, so its all about reading the defense.
In the second and final overtime, Chicago clearly had the momentum although Rose fouling out of the game put some doubt into that theory but another pivotal play by Noah, this time a theft of Nash, the ballhandling magician, would play a major part in sealing the deal.
It was a huge win. It feels good to win right now. The thing that sucks about the league is we cant celebrate it for a week. That would have been great, to be able to celebrate a win like this for a week, offered Noah, whose youthful spirit belies his poise under pressure. Its not a week, but Ill eat some turkey tomorrow.
Things arent always going to go our way. Were going to miss shots, but its all about controlling what you can control and defense is something that you can control, and adjustments and just being aware of the play call that Coach calls when theres a minute left in the game and its tight and the whole crowd is going crazy, Noah, who said while he felt beat up physically, but 150 percent mentally, went on to say.
You get lucky sometimes, but youve got to go and look at film and clean up some things, Rose, at just 22, mature beyond his years, keenly observed. We dont want to be in this predicament again.
For now, they can just give thanks.
That would be the appropriate thing to do Thursday, wouldn't it?
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.