What a night to be at the United Center. I don't really spend too much time thinking or caring about Bulls history (or more accurately: further deifying the dynasty era), but it is kind of cool to root for a team with a real tradition and stature like the Bulls. The halftime ceremony honoring Johnny Red Kerr was really well done.
Kerr himself looked a bit frail (there have been reports of recently failing health) but did manage to speak at the end, culminating a celebration of his career that featured speakers like David Stern, Dolph Shayes, Jerry Colangelo, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, and John Paxson. I believe I can officially call him 'embattled' GM John Paxson (at least with the public), as he received some jeers before speaking. There was also a surprise video message from President Obama. Though even that announcement took a back seat in terms of applause for the ovations (and flashing cameras) that Pippen and Jordan received. I thought both did a great job with their speeches: short, genuine, deferential, and appreciative of an original Chicago Bull.
So after that emotional high it almost felt like an afterthought that the current Bulls had a 2nd half to play against the Pistons. And when the Pistons came out with a 34 point quarter, it's looked like Red's ceremony would be the highlight of the night.
I actually thought that the BuIls weren't being too awful defensively in that quarter (though all game Hamilton and Prince treated the Bulls wings like it was 2007), but Rasheed Wallace was hitting some very tough shots...so I didn't think it was time to panic, as it seemed like Vinny did when having neither Rose, Gordon, nor Thomas on the floor for an extended stretch to end the 3rd and start the 4th.
And then playing Nocioni the last 15 minutes of the game...sitting their $12m franchise SF...
...but it didn't hurt them. Somehow. Prince made Noc look foolish on a couple of occasions but he wasn't attacked as consistently as I feared (and Noc did have a good first half shooting the ball, and while he didn't do much in this oddly long stint to close the game they did make a major run with him on the court). So with the Pistons getting a bit cold, Noah doing a great job rebounding, Tyrus attacking the rim (10-13 from the line, 22 and 10 in 41 minutes. I think we can all stop acting surprised at good play now), it set the stage for Rose and Gordon to take over the game late, scoring 17 out of the Bulls final 21 points.
Rose once again was not that aggressive early, and it looked like another game where he wouldn't be getting to the line. But the final quarter he really took it to the Pistons interior defense, and I thought he was fouled on his final attempt, though he got his own rebound and found Ben Gordon in the corner, who hit the 3 falling out bounds and completed a 4 point play: his 2nd late-game 4 point play this season. Taking the Bulls from a 1-point deficit to a 3-point lead. A simply amazing finish.
Though even at it's worst tonight, it felt like with a bit of a run the Pistons were indeed catchable. They just seem like a team that's ready to fold at any point, and with Iverson out they didn't seem sure of who to go to down the stretch. Sheed forced things, Rip made an extra pass that wound up out of bounds, and they could not keep Derrick Rose out of the lane.