Bulls avoid meltdown, defeat Suns in double OT

324037.jpg

Bulls avoid meltdown, defeat Suns in double OT

Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010
Updated 2:18 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

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.

Morning Update: Bulls prep for Game 4; Cubs won; Sox lost

update-422.jpg
AP

Morning Update: Bulls prep for Game 4; Cubs won; Sox lost

Here are some of Saturday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Five Things to Watch: Bulls battle Celtics in Game 4 today on CSN

Preview: Cubs look to sweep Reds on CSN

White Sox scoreless streak hits 23 innings in loss to Indians

No clear options for Fred Hoiberg at point guard

Two days later, Blackhawks still stunned, 'embarrassed' by quick exit

Cubs offense explodes with three home runs in victory over Reds

Stan Bowman 'completely, completely disappointed' with Blackhawks

White Sox prospect Carson Fulmer: 'Our time is coming soon'

Still in mourning, Isaiah Thomas dictates pace, delivers for Celtics

Jacob May gets 'Harambe' off his back with first career hit

Five Things to Watch: Bulls battle Celtics in Game 4 today on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls battle Celtics in Game 4 today on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Boston Celtics today in Game 4 on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. And be sure to stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live-streaming coverage of the Bulls.

1. Which point guard steps up? With "Playoff Rondo" shelved after suffering a thumb injury, one of the Bulls point guards needs to step up for them to win Game 4. No one is expecting a near-triple-double like Rajon was approaching in Game 2, but hitting open shots and pushing the pace will be vital on Sunday. Jerian Grant finished with a minus-15 and zero assists in Game 3, while Michael Carter-Williams played 23 minutes and scored only two points on 1-for-5 shooting. If those two continue to struggle, it wouldn't be surprising to see Fred Hoiberg call Denzel Valentine's name. 

2. Bigger game from Jimmy Butler. In Game 1 Jimmy Butler dropped 30 points. He followed that up with 22 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in the Game 2 win. Game 3 wasn’t as pretty for the Bulls’ top scorer. Butler had 14 points on 7-21 shooting and didn’t have any assists. It’s an obvious thing to say, but the Bulls need more from Butler to stay in front in the series.

3. Three-point defense. Boston is going to take plenty of threes. The Celtics were third in the NBA in 3-point attempts per game in the regular season with 33.4 per contest. Still, the Celtics shot 17-37 in Game 3. It’s hard to beat a team shooting that well from beyond the arc so the Bulls will have to limit the quality looks Boston gets from the perimeter.

4. Bench production. Not only did Butler have good showings in the first two games, but the Bulls got plenty of bench production as well. That dried up in Game 3. After the Bulls’ bench averaged 30 points in the two games in Boston, the bench had just 16 points in 44 minutes before scoring 10 points in garbage time in the final four minutes of the blowout loss. It doesn’t matter where it comes from - Bobby Portis played the hero in Game 1 and Paul Zipser had the big game off the bench in Game 2 - as long as the bench provides some numbers.

5. Tame big Al Horford. Horford had a nice bounce back game on Friday, scoring 18 points on an efficient 8-for-14 shooting. He also conflated that with a solid floor game, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing six assists. If Horford continues to be aggressive when the Celtics have the ball, it could spell trouble for the Bulls. When Chicago dismantled Boston in Game 2, Horford only had seven points on 3-for-8 shooting. 

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you're ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Bulls: All of the most recent news and notes