Chicago Sun-Times

Bulls rally for double OT victory in Phoenix

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PHOENIX -- Where do you begin in describing the Bulls' 123-115 double overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night at the US Airways Center?

There were more storylines and plots than a week of episodes of a soap opera and more big plays than a month's worth of "SportsCenters."

Perhaps the best place to start is Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau's description of his team following the marathon effort where the Bulls rallied from 23 points down in the second quarter and survived a slew of bad calls to prevail.

"This is our team," Thibodeau said. "There's no quit in them. They'll keep fighting and the challenge for us is every day we want to continue to improve.

"I think we're learning how to win. We're not there, we still have a lot of work to do, but I think we're heading in the right direction."

No one can argue that point. By winning for the third time in five games on the usually crippling circus trip, the Bulls (8-5) have simply found ways to win - regardless of whether they're having a good night, a bad night or whatever.

"We're the type of team, we're grinders and we're never gonna stop," said Derrick Rose, who led the way with a game-high 35 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in 50 minutes before fouling out on a dubious call.

"We can be down 20 points, 30 points. We never want to be in that situation, but if we're forced to be in that situation by the way we're playing, we're gonna come back."

They certainly were in that situation Wednesday.

To put it mildly, the start of the game couldn't have been any worse for the Bulls. They were late arriving at the arena because of a walkthrough at the team hotel - and they were late arriving (at least mentally) for the game.

Rose appeared to score the Bulls' first basket with a three-pointer as the shot clock was running out, but that basket was taken away during the first timeout when the officiating crew ruled that he didn't get the shot off in time.

With that basket off the board, the Bulls were down 29-8 less than nine minutes into the game.

Phoenix (7-8) featured a collapsing defense to cut off Rose from driving to the basket and no one could hit a perimeter jumper to exploit the weakness of that defensive scheme.

Defensively, the Bulls were just slow at the start - slow to get back on defense and slow to get react when the Suns made an offensive move.

The Suns were up 36-17 at the end of the first quarter and things weren't much better at the start of the second quarter.

After getting burned by Shannon Brown (who played briefly with the Bulls three years ago) on Tuesday, former Bull Hakim Warrick came off the bench to score all 23 of his points in the first half for the Suns.

Warrick was with the Bulls for the final two months of last season and the playoffs and struggled to finish around the rim. But that wasn't an issue on Wednesday as Warrick scored on a variety of power moves and mid-range jumpers.

The Bulls actually began the comeback in the second half of the second quarter. James Johnson (12 points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 23 minutes) provided a huge spark off the bench and Kyle Korver (season-high 24 points) and Luol Deng (26) finally started hitting some shots.

Still, the Bulls were still down with under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.

But the Bulls kept chipping away. Johnson had a big three-pointer and a dunk on the fast break and center Joakin Noah stole the ball from Suns point guard Steve Nash to set up Johnson's dunk. Rose then tied the game with a pair of free throws with 14.7 seconds left to force OT.

In the first OT, the Bulls went scoreless for nearly 2½ minutes and they trailed by three points with 12 seconds left. But Noah found Rose on a nice back-door play to tie the score at 111 with one-tenth of a second left.

Rose converted a three-point play on the first possession of the second overtime to put the Bulls on top for good. Following a Phoenix basket, Rose hit a 20-footer to restore the three-point lead and then Deng hit an 18-footer - with most of the bench screaming for him not to shoot after holding the ball - to make it 118-113 with 2:21 remaining.

The only tense moment for the Bulls the rest of the way came when Rose fouled out with 1:38 to go. But they survived that as well.

"It's a horrible feeling to be in that situation like that, where you're fighting and they're hitting three after three," Rose said. "They're gonna live or die by the three and I told my guys keeping fighting. I told the guys in overtime don't let them shoot any threes and if they do contest them."

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Somebody needs to make LeBron James aware that he should have signed with Chicago. At this point James, Anderson, Noah, Deng looks a lot stronger than what he's working with in Miami. And maybe more importantly the reality appears to be that Chicago doesn't need James the way folks were thinking back before the summer. I do like this team as it is. They just have to stay healthy. –LH

Lionel: At this point i won't want LBJ on our Bulls roster. D Rose is doing just great and we are on a role, we are a contender and still without Carlos Boozer. Deng is doing what he has been his past years in Chicago. he drops about 15 points a game with some good rebounding skills. Kyle Korver coming off the bench is huge for us. He can drop the 3 pointer any time of day. Our roster has improved with Noah, Gibson and Rose all improving and adding depth to our roster now. I can't wait till Boozer gets back.

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This page contains a single entry by John Jackson published on November 25, 2010 12:38 AM.

Gibson out with ankle injury was the previous entry in this blog.

Rose questionable for tonight with stiff neck is the next entry in this blog.

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