Thibs: still scowling - Christian Petersen
The Suns were meant to be a get-well stop for the Bulls offense, and though it was indeed that way for most of the game, they had to use an extra period to close the game out. Kirk Hinrich returned after a 1.5-game absence and though the team battled foul trouble they saw little other resistance from the notably-poor Phoenix Suns defense.
The Bulls were scorching for the first 3 quarters of this game, leading 83-69 entering the 4th. They were able to convert extremely easily inside, to the point where the worst player in basketball (to watch) Carlos Boozer had 16 first-half points and 28 overall. The team was even able to get in a three-point shooting rhythm, hitting 6-12 from that range. The defense was forcing everything to the outside beyond Goran Dragic's great first stint, and though Luis Scola found enough space to hit jumpers it was an overall losing proposition for them: Michael Beasley went 4-15, the same numbers for Shannon Brown, and Markeiff Morris went 3-12.
But in the 4th quarter, the shots started falling for Phoenix, and when they didn't they were able to do something few teams can do against the Bulls: get the rebound. Behind a surprising 7 ORebs from reserve forward P.J. Tucker, Phoenix had an over 39% offensive rebound rate, usually the type of numbers the Bulls put up against other teams (which they nearly did, 32%). They also got hot from long range, with noted bricklayer Sebastian Telfair hitting 3 three-pointers in the final period. Combining that with some unfortunately-timed Bulls turnovers (featuring the bizarrely-perfect 5-second call on Kirk Hinrich), some missed FTs, and a lack of a closer on each side, the game wound up tied after Rip Hamilton badly-missed a baseline post-up turnaround.
In overtime, the Bulls were able to re-take-over, in part because Scola fouled out in their first offensive possession. With him gone as well as Morris (who suffered an injury late in the 4th), the Suns went small and tried to keep riding Telfair's hot hand (and Beasley's cold one), but the Bulls frontcourt bullied their way to controlling the glass and scoring close: Rip Hamilton put in two chip shots, and Joakim Noah capped another great night in his All-Star campaign (21 points, 12 rebs) with a fingagunz-blazin' jumper.
It probably shouldn't have wound up that fun or exciting given the ease shown at the beginning of the game. But the Bulls were able to look good on offense, and even show some game-closing ability (Deng and Noah looking especially reliable), even if it took the extra period. The Circus Trip is now underway and this was a key victory to make it a successful one. They're still not, ya know, that good, so any victories are key.