2009.10 Chicago Bulls | 82 games | January
Game 45: Bulls finish road trip with fifth straight impressive win
Bulls 108, Hornets 106 (OT) | 01.29.10: The Bulls have been good, winning a fifth consecutive road game in New Orleans thanks to 26 points from Luol Deng, 18 points from Derrick Rose and 13 points and 18 rebounds from Joakim Noah.
And they’ve also been lucky, the Hornets with the game effectively won throwing the ball away with seven seconds to go. That enabled the Bulls to tie the game and send it into overtime on a Deng tip in with two tenths of a second left, the turnover also resulting in an injury to Chris Paul that finally sent him to the bench in overtime as his replacement, Darren Collison, blew a chance to tie the game and the Bulls escaped with a 108-106 overtime victory.
Good and lucky? Tough to beat.
The Bulls now are 23-22 on the season with their five straight wins over five Western Conference winning teams and 13 wins in their last 18 games.
“When you're winning, everything is positive," said Deng, whose hustling follow of the Rose blocked layup attempt for the tie saved the game in regulation. "We're going into games expecting to win. A game like that, if we had lost four in a row, we might have lost it. But the mentality right now is we can win every game."
Newly minted All-Star Derrick Rose talks about not worrying about whether he would make the team, talking to his Mom after he got the news and whether Joakim Noah deserved a spot (01.29.10):
Game 44: It's Thunder Road for the Bulls with fourth straight
Bulls 96, Thunder 86 | 01.27.10: They insisted they knew. Even when they were losing 35-point leads at home to bad teams, even when they were in a three game stretch of losing by 32 at home, then to the 1-19 Nets at home and then by 35 on the road. Even when their coach supposedly was being fired any day now and there were injuries and they couldn’t score 100 points and fans were demanding just about everyone be traded. At least Joakim Noah said the Bulls knew.
“Last month it was almost like a disaster,” Noah was saying matter-of-factly after still another impressive Bulls road victory, 96-86 over the Oklahoma City Thunder. “In just a matter of a month. It’s all about confidence. When you can’t win games because you aren’t talented enough that’s one thing. That’s what was so frustrating about the whole thing. We were better than that. We’re showing that now.”
And showing it as impressively as any team in the NBA, once again with a dominating win over one of the rising young teams in the league with Derrick Rose leading the way with 26 points, a dozen in the fourth quarter, the Bulls young guys overwhelming the Thunder’s core.
That’s right. No one, perhaps the Cavs, and maybe not even them because they’ve been winning narrowly and mostly at home, has been playing as effectively and impressively as the Bulls...
Sam Smith of Bulls.com on the winning streak, the trade the Bulls made for Devin Brown, and if they'll make any more deals (01.27.10):
Game 43: Bulls turn off the lights on the Spurs
Bulls 98, Spurs 93 | 01.25.10: They ran off the court together and the locker room was loud and boisterous. They went out together after the game to Mi Tierra, the famous San Antonio Mexican restaurant that is always open and has Christmas lights displayed year ‘round.
And down the stretch when they were holding off the San Antonio Spurs, 98-93, for a third straight improbable road win over a tough Western Conference team, Derrick Rose was making a big shot, and Joakim Noah was making an even bigger putback and Luol Deng was making an even bigger block of a Manu Ginobili drive.
Suddenly, the Bulls are becoming one of the bright lights of the NBA.
“The West Coast always has been tough for us,” said Deng. “To get three wins and we didn’t start it off right. We could easily have lost the next three games. But we stuck with it. It shows a lot about our team.”
It shows, perhaps, that this disparate group that was stumbling along toward a miserable season, which seemed destined to be listening to a new coach and many perhaps wearing different uniforms, could be turning into a real team.
“Sixth, fifth, who knows,” Kirk Hinrich was saying after another good all around game with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals. “I feel like we can do something.”
For now, it’s three straight to get to 21-22 on the season and quietly 11 of the last 16 and tied for seventh in the East, a game and a half behind fifth place Miami...
Game 42: Bulls shoot down Rockets for second straight
Bulls 104, Rockets 97 | 01.23.10: Brad Miller returned to the starting lineup and produced the game of his second Bulls career, 25 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter and perhaps a game saving offensive rebound before Derrick Rose’s effective game winner to lead the Bulls to a surprising 104-97 win over the Houston Rockets.
It was the Bulls second straight win over a high quality Western Conference opponent with a winning record to go to 2-2 on this seven-game Western Conference road trip. The Bulls also continued to display a new oie de vivre playing style in which the Bulls once again scored more than 100 points. The Bulls are averaging 106.1 the last 10 games and have won 10 of 15 to improve to 20-22.
“We lose to two under .500 teams and come out and beat two good teams on the road,” noticed Miller. “This trip last year I wasn’t on (the team yet). It was a building block for them (going 4-3) and they went on a roll before the trade. This is the trip to build momentum. Teams that are good on the road you get that swagger. You’ve got to work harder on the road. We’ve got a long ways to go on this trip. (But) it’s a good confidence builder.”
It was an impressive win over a 24-19 Rockets team that won in San Antonio (the Bulls next stop Monday) Friday night while the Bulls were beating the Suns. But the Rockets were back home from that game before the Bulls game even ended, and with the time change the Bulls rolled into Houston after 4 a.m....
Game 41: Rose, Bulls rise like a Phoenix in Arizona
Bulls 115, Suns 104 | 01.22.10: How ‘bout dem Bulls?
“They outplayed us and deserved to win,” said Suns All-Star point guard Steve Nash, who was dominated by Derrick Rose’s offnese and Kirk Hinrich’s defense in a 115-104 Bulls win. “They were better than us. Take your hat off and congratulate (them) on a wonderful performance.”
Yes, the 19-22 Bulls, who had just lost the first two games of this Western Conference road trip to Golden State and the Clippers.
But behind Rose’s 32 points and a dunk John Salmons called one of the 10 best in NBA history, a terrific defensive effort on Nash and wonderful defensive game plan, and some amazingly accurate shooting from Rose, Salmons and Luol Deng, the Bulls on the national ESPN game played one of their best games of the season in beating the 25-19 Suns.
“I wish there was that perfect (game) button you could push,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro.
There are no perfect games, but this one was about as good as it gets for this Bulls team, shooting 50.6 percent and almost 60 percent in the first half...
Sam Smith talks about the first half in Phoenix, the upcoming trade deadline and who's untradeable on the Bulls (01.22.10):
Game 40: Bulls lose again, and now comes the good teams
Clippers 104, Bulls 97 | 01.20.10: So much for the easy part of the Bulls' two-week Western Conference road trip. Uh oh.
The Bulls, after losing 104-97 to the 19-22 Clippers who lost two nights earlier to the then 11-27 Warriors, starting Friday in Phoenix face five teams all with winning records and all in a desperate fight for the playoffs, thus making every game for them important.
Yes, the Bulls are staring dead into a seven-loss trip and closing in on what could be the beginning of the end of their season. And everything looked so promising a few days ago.
“We gave up too many points tonight,” offered Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. “There were times we settled and we did not follow our shots and we let easy baskets go. We had the numbers to convert, but did not follow through. I am disappointed that we lost. But I am happy that this young team is trying hard."
Though you wondered at times with the halting first three quarters and then a frenzied finish...
Game 39: Bulls donate game to Warriors to open road trip
Warriors 114, Bulls 97 | 01.18.10: This Bulls team really is filled with nice guys. After all, look how nice they were in losing 114-97 to the Golden State Warriors.
They could have tried to punish Corey Maggette in the post with Taj Gibson, but rarely threw the ball to Gibson, who got seven shots. They could have doubled and blitzed Monta Ellis on the perimeter to take the ball out of his hands and get it to one of three D-league players the Warriors were using. But, nah, they let Ellis roam wherever he wanted and fire off 39 shots and score a team high 36 points.
They could have pressured and trapped the historically undermanned Warriors, who basically had only four regular NBA players available given so many injuries and dressed just eight. Perhaps tried to tire them out when every bench player had just come up from the D-league. Forget that. The Bulls backed off and let the Warriors into their offense wherever they wanted...
Bulls EVP-Basketball Operations John Paxson on the improvement of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah (01.18.10):
Game 38: Bulls make it 8 of 11 with double OT win over Wizards
Bulls 121, Wizards 119 (2OT) | 01.15.10: Slowly, though perhaps steadily, the Bulls are turning into a team. That’s 8-3 now since they moved Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson into the starting lineup, since Tyrus Thomas returned from injury, the team’s second four-game winning streak in that span with Friday’s 121-119 double overtime victory over the Washington Wizards thanks to Derrick Rose’s game winning 10 footer in the lane with 5.4 seconds left.
Not long ago a team that routinely was collapsing down the stretch, unable to find enough points and big game players, uncertain and uneven, the Bulls go into their final Western Conference trip of the season averaging 108 per game the last six games and with Rose officially a closer as he finished off Friday with a career high 37 points.
“Usually we were always a team that let it slip toward the end if we were in a close game,” said Rose, who rimmed out a potential game winner at the end of regulation. “It shows how much we’re improving and we’ll get better. These are the type of games you dream about when you are younger. I’m playing in my hometown, so everybody is standing up cheering. I’ve got the ball in my hand and everybody is looking at you and seeing what you are going to do. You hit the shot. It’s crazy. I really couldn’t believe it. I don’t show no emotion anyway, but I was happy. I think I missed like 20 something of these to lose games, too. To hit this one told me I’ve come a long way.”
Sam Smith of Bulls.com talks about the first half against the Wizards, the upcoming road trip and the Bulls turning the corner (01.15.10):
Game 37: The Bulls are coming? The Bulls are coming?
Bulls 96, Celtics 83 | 01.14.10: I know the Bulls still are an eighth place team in the Eastern Conference. Eighteen NBA teams have better records. No one buys foam fingers to wave, “We’re No. 19!”
But suddenly, quietly, without any trades or coaching firings, the Bulls have won seven of 10 games, gotten wins against the top four teams in the Eastern Conference—in Boston 96-83, and earlier over Cleveland, Orlando and Atlanta—won three straight by double figures and an average of 20 points per game and rank in the top five in the NBA in the key defensive categories.
“It’s probably the most complete game we’ve played all year with controlling it and that’s something we’ve been working on,” said Derrick Rose, who scored 17 points to support Luol Deng's 25, but also nine in the fourth quarter with two highlight play drives down the stretch. “Everybody’s getting healthy and we’re just trying to compete now.”
And in the end, the Bulls did it with defense in a crucial segment with less than four minutes remaining and the Celtics, behind all game, ready to steal it with a Paul Pierce three to get within 86-80.
“Bottom line is we made some plays when we had to and we had a couple stops when we needed to,” said coach Vinny Del Negro...
Bulls Player Development Assistant Sidney Green on playing with Michael Jordan and working with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson (01.14.10):
Game 36: Now they're blowing out teams as Bulls dominate Detroit
Bulls 120, Pistons 87 | 01.11.10: It turns out that may have been the problem all season for the Bulls with the questions about Vinny Del Negro's coaching status, Tyrus Thomas' commitment, John Salmons' position, Luol's Deng's role, the playing rotation, minutes, offense and depth. The Bulls just needed to make shots. Why didn't someone think of that?
And, oh did they make them in by far their best offensive effort of the season, an almost perfect 120-87 blowout victory over the Detroit Pistons in which the Bulls shot a season best 57.1 in setting a season high in scoring for the third time in the last four games led by Luol Deng with 27 points and Derrick Rose with 22. Combined, the duo made 24 of 31 shots.
"A lot of shots went in tonight," agreed not so beleaguered coach Vinny Del Negro. "Our ball movement was good and our aggressiveness was good. It was another solid team effort. Luol came out aggressive and Derrick's jumper looked good. We shot a high percentage and caught Detroit (13th consecutive loss) at a good time. We have Tyrus and Kirk (Hinrich) back and we've had some practice time together. Guys know their role off the bench because we have our rotation set with guys helping. And the schedule has been more in our favor. There's no easy game for us, but I like the way everyone has contributed. I like the way Derrick is running the team and the way Kirk provides thrust for us. Joakim (Noah with 16 points and 11 rebounds) again was fantastic with his energy. We're just in a good state right now."
A state of bliss as no one has seen a Bulls team like this all season...
Sam Smith of Bulls.com discusses Luc Longley returning to the United Center, Ben Gordon's move to Detroit and the availability of Tyrus Thomas (01.11.10):
Game 35: Bulls break losing streak and beat Wolves
Bulls 110, Timberwolves 96 | 01.09.10: Why didn’t the Bulls think of this before: Forget Derrick Rose. Run the offense through Joakim Noah. Hey, maybe the Bulls finally have found that closer.
“I don't think that's what it's about,” Noah said after scoring 20 points, one below his career high, to lead the Bulls to a 110-96 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I'm just happy to help my team win. We had a tough loss (Friday) and it can be tough to bring energy and focus after a tough loss but we did that.”
It wasn’t quite a classic as the Bulls, as is their custom of late, fell behind by double digits in the first quarter. They got back quickly behind some rare good three point shooting from Kirk Hinrich, also with 20 points, and John Salmons. They did break a three-game losing streak. But they fenced with a lackluster Minnesota team, falling into some bad jump shooting habits to the point coach Vinny Del Negro yanked Tyrus Thomas late in the third quarter after a pair of quick jumpers when the Timberwolves pulled within 73-64.
But Brad Miller gave the Bulls a nice shooting effort off the bench along with Salmons and Taj Gibson came on late to help the Bulls move to 15-20...
Game 34: Bucks hold off Bulls 70s style
Bucks 96, Bulls 93 | 01.08.10: It’s never much fun to lose, and the Bulls weren’t smiling very much after coming back from a 17-point deficit only to lose to the Milwaukee Bucks 96-93.
But it was a heck of a game from both teams, not necessarily artful with both teams shooting below 41 percent though with some cheap shots, a bit of a pushing and shoving four-technical sideshow, some takedowns at the basket and plenty of shouting at the officials.
You could close your eyes and see Van Lier, Sloan and Walker and Kareem, Oscar and Dandridge in one of the best, if underplayed, rivalries of the 1970s, the Bulls and Bucks battles for the best in the then west.
They’re no longer competing for much but perhaps a final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs as the Bucks snuck ahead at 15-18 while the Bulls fell to 14-20.
But they at least put on a good show, if less satisfying for the Bulls...
Bulls Assistant Coach Bernie Bickerstaff on Vinny Del Negro's growth and his position with the team (01.08.10):
Game 33: Bulls can't come up Roses in loss to Bobcats
Bobcats 113, Bulls 108 | 01.05.10: And in the end, there was no one again to close the deal. It’s really the ultimate in sports, the guy who can step up and win the game for you.
But as the Bulls were losing to the Charlotte Bobcats 113-108, there was Kirk Hinrich, first with an open look for a three to take a lead with 90 seconds left and a dead on 18 footer for a tie with 25.9 seconds left. Both missed front rim.
“I thought the first one was going in,” said Hinrich, who finished four of 13. “The second one came off the wrong way and I felt like my feet weren’t really set and I just came up short.”
Then there was John Salmons driving with a chance to tie the game with 51.4 seconds left, only to dribble the ball off his leg for a turnover. Salmons did convert on a three-point play with 18.1 seconds left to bring the Bulls within one. But there was Salmons with a wide open look at a three to tie with 3.5 seconds left only to miss short...
Bulls rookie James Johnson talks about going to Wake Forest, playing in the ACC and his rookie year so far (01.05.10):
Game 32: Bulls have no lightning to match the Thunder
Thunder 98, Bulls 85 | 01.04.10: In the end, the Bulls just didn’t have quite enough in the battle of the 2007 and 2008 draft classes. No. 2 pick from 2007 Kevin Durant had 25 points and eight rebounds and No. 4 pick from 2008 Russell Westbrook had 29 points, seven rebounds and six assists while No. 9 pick from 2007 Joakim Noah had 14 points and 14 rebounds while No. 1 pick from 2008 Derrick Rose had 19 points and seven assists.
The result was a 98-85 Oklahoma City win as the developing young Thunder moved to 19-15 while the hoping-to-reemerge Bulls fell to 14-18.
"It’s fun playing against your friends," said Durant, whose streak of 30-point scoring games was stopped at seven. "In the summertime we can say we won the game in Chicago."
As for the wintertime in a brutal cold spell, the Bulls turned colder than the lakefront in early morning with a miserable second half in which they shot a bone chilling 26.4 percent and were outscored 51-33...
OKC Thunder's Kevin Durant talks about the team's improvement, his secret to success and being one of the league's top scorers (01.04.10):
Game 31: Bulls and Rose magical against Orlando
Bulls 101, Magic 93 | 01.02.10: C’mon. Tell me Derrick Rose is not an All-Star. C’mon, step up. I know I used that same one about Joakim Noah after the Bulls beat the Pistons New Year’s Eve, but, c’mon, how great is Derrick Rose playing?
If you don’t believe me or your eyes, ask Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. I did late Saturday after the Bulls beat the defending East champion Magic 101-93 with Rose going for 30 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and also the crucial offensive plays when the Bulls were staggering again and the Magic cut a 15-point Bulls fourth quarter lead to five and then three in the last seconds.
“To me—and I don’t want to downplay any of those guys being back. I think a lot of guys are making a contribution and playing well—but, to me what’s really happened is Derrick Rose's got healthy,” said Van Gundy, whose Magic fell to 24-9. “He’s playing like he did last year. I’m looking at the numbers the last five games and I’m watching him on film and I’m reading about all these other guys and I’m saying, ‘Here’s the difference: Their best player is back playing like he did in the playoffs last year and the end of last year...'
Sam Smith of Bulls.com talks about a good first half against Orlando, Tyrus Thomas' return and his Bull of the Decade (01.02.10):