Game Notes: Rockets at Bulls
Rose and Noah are back and so is the sense of urgency for the Bulls.
by Bryan Crawford / @from_the_chi
A week ago, I wondered whether or not the Bulls should just give up on the season entirely. At that time, Joakim Noah was still out and no one knew when he’d be back. Derrick Rose was hurt again, and Luol Deng was hurt, AGAIN. No team can win with its three best players on the sidelines and the the Bulls were in the midst of a six game losing streak at the time and all seemed lost.
Little did I know just exactly how much fight the Bulls still had left in them.
Case in point was Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Philly. They got their two best players back in Rose and Noah and they promptly put a thumping on the team from the City of Brotherly Love to snap a losing streak that had ballooned to ten games. Next up would be a home game against the Houston Rockets who ironically were in the same situation as the Bulls. In 9th place in their conference and trying to rebound from injuries to their key players as well.
Houston may not have a chance to make the postseason in the west, but if the Bulls play well down the stretch and get a little help from the Raptors, there’s still an outside chance they can make the playoffs in the east.
“We’re focusing on what we can control,” said Vinny Del Negro before the game on their playoff chances. “If we take care of our business we’ll continue to have opportunities and we have to focus on that. There’s still a lot of basketball [left to be played], but there’s not that much so we have to win the games we’re supposed to and try to steal some games as well.”
The game against the Rockets was one of those games the Bulls were supposed to win. And they did.
They Bulls came out very aggressive from the jump. Led by Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich and with contributions from Flip Murray off the bench in the first half, Chicago looked to send a message to Houston that this wouldn’t be an easy victory. And while they couldn’t seem to contain Luis Scola and Kevin Martin in the first two quarters, thanks to great man-to-man defense by Derrick Rose, they were able to keep Aaron Brooks in check as he went 0-6 in the first half. They know just as well as anybody, if you can stop him, you can beat the Rockets. Still, by halftime the Bulls found themselves down by five, but it was a game that you knew the Bulls were going to pull out.
In the third quarter, things started to get a little chippy and it seemed as if Rockets coach Rick Adelman had slid a few dollars to the referees in the hallway or something because they did a terrible call officiating.
It started at the end of the second quarter when Derrick Rose was whistled for a phantom charging foul and the bad calls carried over into the second half. Houston started flopping and the refs gave them the calls while seemingly ignoring those same fouls on the other end for the Bulls. This incensed Vinny Del Negro so much that he earned his first career ejection when he argued an offensive foul call on Taj Gibson. Said Del Negro after the game, “There were too many [bad calls] to make any sense of it. I have to do a better job staying in the game… I thought I got tossed pretty quick.”
Said Kirk Hinrich on the ejection of Del Negro, “It was a little bit surprising… I was looking at Bob Delaney and I knew he was going to get tossed.”
The Bulls were already up 8 points on Houston when Del Negro was ejected at the end of third quarter, but seeing their coach all fired up like that when he’s usually even keeled on the sidelines seemed to motivate them to put the Rockets away. But Houston wouldn’t go away that easily.
After leading by as many as 13 points in the final quarter, with two minutes left to play, Houston had the lead cut to four points. But thanks to timely shooting by Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich–who’d been doing that all night–the Bulls were able to close the game out to get their second victory in a row.
Joakim Noah played just under 12 minutes in his second consecutive game for the Bulls and says his foot feels fine, his main concern is conditioning but the sense of urgency is definitely there. “It feels good to be out there but I think I have a ways to go. My conditioning isn’t really there right now but I’m happy that we won two in a row and I think we’re on the right track,” said Noah after the game. “The only thing that really matters is playing in the playoffs. That’s what I live for.”
Derrick Rose echoed his teammates sense of urgency towards a push for the postseason. “I have to give it all I’ve got. Tomorrow we don’t play so why not give it your all out there at that time?”
Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different answer as to which player makes the Bulls go; Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah. Regardless of which side of the argument you’re on, the most obvious answer to that question is the Bulls need both of those guys if they’re going to have any chance of winning and making the playoffs. They’re going to need a lot of help, but don’t write this Bulls team off yet. Take it from me.