With five games remaining in the season, the Bulls shrunk their magic number to three to clinch the East with a 97-94 win over the Suns.
The Bulls (57-20) almost completely lost a 22-point third-quarter lead, but pulled out the 97-94 win over the Suns (37-40) on Tuesday at the United Center. The Celtics (54-23) beat the 76ers 99-82, as the Bulls' magic number to clinch the Eastern Conference shrunk to three -- two to clinch a top-two seed over the idle Heat (54-23).
- Blowing a huge lead is bad, but don't discount creating it. Just as when the Bulls pull comebacks, I credit the heart of the champion bladdie-blah of coming back, but pound them for playing so shitty to need to comeback, they came out stomping on a tough team capable of being stomped on every night and that's a very, very good thing. There was an 11-minute stretch of bad that in most games would be catastrophic.
So, fortunate, yes, but the Bulls' early dominance showed to be more powerful than the Suns endgame heroics that included Bull Killer Vince Carter scoring 19 of his 23 points off the bench in the final 15:28 of the game, where he was never subbed out.... Wait, the Bulls dominating 17 minutes in the middle of a game won out over the Suns dominating for 11 minutes in the late-mid/early-endgame? How is that possible when it defeats all narratives? Because spread out dominance is more valuable than clutchiness. That's basketball.
- Nice D, Booz. Check out Steve Nash's (six points on 3-for-8, 16 assists, two steals) smile on the replay in the final second of this video. He knows exactly who he exploited:
- Speaking of an 11-minute brainfart, how often to we see Luol Deng fade off his man this far because he over-committed to helping on dribble penetration? I think this is proof that a sense of non-alertness spread through the Bulls like a wildfire somewhere midway in the third quarter. Deng hesitates a bit much at times, but no more often than any strong defender, but rarely does he make such a bad decision to over-commit help too late, let alone too early:
- Speaking of Lu, until falling asleep on Vinsanity (in about as worse a way possible) for a long stretch, he was the "glue." The Bulls had a 14-2 run interrupted by a Suns 7-0 run; to which the Bulls immediately responded with a 7-0 run in the third quarter largely due to Deng's eight third-quarter points on 3-for-4 shooting, hitting both 3s attempted. It's a shame his fourth quarter sucked, but the first 26-to-27 minutes of his 39:15 game was about as solid as it gets on both ends. He finished with 18 points on 7-for-16 shooting -- 2-for-5 on 3s -- with four assists.
- Back to midgame dominance: Bench Mob! "As the Bulls built a 53-40 halftime lead, the bench had 26 points and the starters had 27," Kent McDill wrote at NBA.com. "The bench increased the Bulls' lead from one point to 10 through the first seven minutes of the second quarter."
Taj Gibson led the bench, scoring 10 points to go with his nine rebounds, but he only had three in that second quarter. C.J. Watson had all six of his points, Ronnie Brewer had five of his 10 (with five of his six rebounds and two of his four assists), Kyle Korver had five of his six in that quarter. In a game where the Bulls won by four, the bench players in the game totaled for a +14, for what it's worth.
- Cheers to Grant Hill. He deserves to be commended for some excellent work defending Rose and Alvin Gentry deserves credit for keeping Nash away from Rose. This coaching decision prevented a 110-80-type of ass-whopping where Rose goes off and Nash expends too much energy failing to stop it.
- The Bulls won their fourth-straight overall and eighth of their last nine, 19 of their last 22. Not to mention, the 16th of their last 17 at home to extend their UC record to 34-5.