Game Notes: Suns at Bulls
The Bulls lose, but their “Rose” is blooming.
By Bryan Crawford / @from_the_chi
The Bulls came into Tuesday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns badly in need of a win to try and close the gap between themselves and Toronto Raptors-who who beat the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night-for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The task would be a difficult one considering that Phoenix rolled into town as one of the hottest teams in the League and were on a seven game winning streak and needing just one win to clinch a playoff berth in the Western Conference.
Making this game even more interesting, earlier in the day Derrick Rose boldly predicted that the Bulls would make the playoffs. “In my mind, we’ll be making the eighth spot. We’ll be playing LeBron.” It’s unclear whether or not his statement put any added pressure on the team, but it did seem to inspire them to come out and play one of their best games this year.
Amar’e Stoudamire came into the game playing great basketball of late and the Bulls knew that to have any chance to win, they would have to try and neutralize him. Easier said than done. “We all know Amar’e is a force,” said Vinny Del Negro. “Athletically around the basket he’s finishing strong and finishing over guys…he’s going to get his points.” That part about finishing over guys, James Johnson got that message loud and clear as he was completely posterized by Stoudamire and became another name on Amare’s list of people that he’s embarrassed this season.
But in spite of that play, the Bulls really stepped up and competed against the Suns and made this a very competitive and fun game to watch.
Part of that fun was watching Flip Murray heave the ball sixty feet over his shoulder into the basket at the end of the third quarter. The United Center crowd went crazy and the atmosphere in the building was electric after that. I remember thinking to myself when he threw it up that the shot was going to be good. It just came off so perfectly when he let it go. Although his miraculous shot clearly came after the buzzer and the refs gave it an official review just to be sure, it was still the highlight of the night.
But as well as the Bulls played and as hard as they competed, at the end of the night they would still come up short as they fell to the Suns 111-105 and Amar’e Stoudamire walked off the court wearing a black Suns t-shirt that read “Clinched” on the front.
For the Suns, it was mission accomplished. For the Bulls, instead of cutting into Toronto’s lead over them in the standings, they found themselves once again a game-and-a-half back of the Raptor’s for that final playoff spot. Because Toronto owns the tie-breaker against them, Chicago has to finish a full game ahead in order to get into the postseason and time is running out. Adding to the difficulty at hand, the Bulls have three back-to-backs over the final three weeks of the regular season.
Regardless of the challenges that remain, Derrick Rose is still unwavering in his confidence of his team’s chances of making the postseason and when asked, he refused to back down from the bold prediction that he made earlier in the day.
“We’re still in the playoffs. We’re still trying to make this push and win some games. Because we lost, our heads can’t be down. We came out and played our hardest tonight and we competed.”
It seems that over the past two weeks or so, Derrick Rose has slowly started to grow into the leader that most people felt that he would need to be in order for this team to have a successful season. And that doesn’t mean just being a vocal leader, but also a leader by example as well.
Said Rose as he prepared to leave the locker room at the United Center, “I’m actually about to go to the Berto [the Bulls practice facility] right now and shoot and tomorrow in practice I’m going to talk to my teammates and tell them that everybody needs to get involved so that we can win some games and make the playoffs.”
You can’t ask for much more than that from your star player and the face of the franchise.