All teams in the NBA have games like that, but as Derrick Rose said, “we have big plans. We can’t play like that.”
Coach Tom Thibodeau, who walked to his post-game press conference looking like he wanted to hurt someone, was truly upset that his defensive-minded team allowed a Phoenix team that is out of the playoffs to even sniff at a victory.
“We were fortunate in the end to get the win,” Thibodeau said. “We did not play tough with the lead.”
I don’t think this game has any real meaning from a playoff standpoint. I don’t think it is necessary to make a bigger deal out of this than to note that the Bulls let a big lead slide.
The Bulls are good, one of the best teams in the league, maybe the best from top to bottom. But they have difficulty putting the hammer down. It’s a skill they lack, and you just have to hope it will not come back to bite them sometime in the next two months.
On the positive side, the Bulls spread the scoring around. Rose had 19 points, Luol Deng had 18, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah each had 12, and Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson had 10 each off the bench.
Two of those totals were most significant. Noah was coming back after missing three games with a sprained ankle, and he was very fluid. He made six of seven shots, most on dunks, and added four rebounds, four assists and four steals. He is a great starting center to play with someone like Rose.
Off the bench, Taj Gibson had 10 points, nine rebounds and only one turnover in 21 minutes, playing a lot as Carlos Boozer had a tough of foul trouble and was coming back from a flu bug.
At halftime, the Bulls had a 53-40 lead and the bench contributed 26 points to the starters’ 27. I really have to wonder if this bench is better than the benches either of the three-peat teams had.
On Thursday, the Bulls host the Boston Celtics, and I encourage all again not to try to make more out of that game than it requires. But I know you won’t listen.
HERO: Luol Deng was playing defense on Vince Carter late in the game and forced him to take three bad shots when the Suns could have tied the game. In a game where the Bulls stopped playing defense, it was his stops that saved the day.