The Suns game on Tuesday was a tremendous one to attend...and despite the final result I was more than pleased with the Bulls performance. I find myself too often trying to qualify every success the Bulls have this season: either they're at home, or they're playing bad teams, or they're just shooting well, etc. But not too often I sit back and simply say 'this team is pretty good'.
But I was during the Suns game, even though they wound up losing. Maybe the term 'moral victories' isn't the best one, but outplaying a very good team in a loss was still encouraging even after a heartbreaking result. Maybe not to some though, such as Sun-Times columnist (I didn't know he was a columnist, but it's since been confirmed by the many one-line paragraphs) Greg Couch:
We needed to see the Bulls beat someone like this. You have to win these games at home to prove something, to climb a level.
Just one game. Just one game. Keep those reminders coming. But I was starting to believe in the Bulls. They kept piling up win after win, but most of them came against lesser teams.
So here came Phoenix, a hot team, a contender. And if the Bulls had just not blown it, then today they would be in first place, holding the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and with a win over one of the best in the West.
Instead, Phoenix had an off-shooting night and beat the Bulls anyway. At the United Center.
Yeah, they lost, but if one has actually been watching the whole season instead of just 'measuring stick' games that game would be seen as progress because of how they played, independent of the result.
"I think if you're putting so much on one game, you're probably making a big mistake. We did not play [Barbosa] correctly, but he also hit a heck of a shot. We wouldn't even be asking these questions if he had missed one shot. Then we'd be an elite team because he missed one shot? That's pretty silly to me.
"I don't even think like that. Because I think there are teams the media thinks are elite teams that I think are garbage. And there are other teams that I know are going to be very good as the season goes on that are under the radar right now. We had a disappointing loss. It was a game we should have won. Hopefully, it's a learning experience for us."
(I emphasized that line merely for the hilarity)
There's more of these games coming up. Starting with the hampered but still dangerous Nets team on the road, a big showdown against the Pistons on Saturday...all of January is pretty tough, and it finishes going into the next month with another west-coast road trip.
So what does it really matter if Barbosa makes or misses that shot? I wouldn't be getting over-excited the other way if Barbosa's shot doesn't go in: The Bulls wouldn't then be on the level of the Suns (or Spurs or Mavs). But especially given the Heat's submarined title defense, the Bulls are playing like a team that can win the East. Whether that not-truly-elite level is good enough is another question, but I like the opportunity to sit back once in a while and say "they're pretty good".