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Bulls 97, Suns 94: Close, but not too close for comfort

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Suns vs Bulls boxscore Pace Eff eFG FT/FG OREB% TOr
Phoenix 91.0 103.3 47.7% 11.4 27.3 14.3
Chicago 106.6 51.3% 21.8 22.5 14.3

 

It's actually subsided a bit as the Bulls have transitioned their observed-identity over the course of this season from 'endearing upstart' to 'bonafide championship contender with an MVP', but the chemistry talk has always irked this here blogger, as you know (and are likely sick of hearing). And it's for a few reasons: while I appreciate the 'sum > parts' aspect of this team, it often gets to the point where the 'parts' are overshadowed. And what about if the Bulls lose in the playoffs? Would their chemistry have somehow subsided, to the point of blamed?

It's the talent, and I think that really showed in the first half (and first few minutes of the second) against the Suns. Because to a casual observer of Phoenix, they seem just as chemistry-soaked as the Bulls. They have a coach they love to play for, a leader who builds solidarity both on the court and off, respected veterans and enthusiastic youth.

They're a good team that plays together...they just don't have as good of a roster. So when there's a loose ball and both teams want to get it (out of LOVE, of course), it's going to go to the bigger, stronger, and deeper team. They'll be the team that attacks the rim and draws the fouls. And behind that might the Bulls looked firmly in control after a 3rd quarter run had them up 22.

Now what happened after that?

Bill Simmons mentioned this a few weeks ago and it's proven to be worth noticing: the Bulls seem to have their advantages negated when the opponents go small. Turnovers seem to be more easily forced, longer rebounds seem harder to control, and the usually-stout defense seems to be more susceptible to spacing and movement. There was a point in the game where either the Bulls were cross-matched or switching and find themselves having Taj or Noah running out to defend Vince Carter, and the lead dramatically dwindled.

(It also apparently keeps Omer Asik on the bench, as he only recorded a little over 6 minutes of game action and barely any in that 2nd half.)

Vince brought the Suns back, but also shot them out of a chance at overtaking the Bulls near the end, and Derrick Rose salvaged a pretty rough night (19 pts on 15 shots, 1-5 from 3) with a huge and-one and a jumper in the under-2-minute portion of the game. There was also a bizarre sequence of events at the very end, as the Suns looked unorganized on both defense (waiting so long to foul Korver) and offense (Nash dribbling for a dish in the lane when they're down 3)  and the Bulls held on.

As I led off (in a meandering way, I admit), the Suns are a pretty decent team that can look great at times, but their players just aren't as good as the what the Bulls can throw out there. This win has been like a few these last couple of weeks: including enough bad signs to keep those lingering doubts, yet ultimately satisfying as it further cements their place as the #1 seed, something I still see as even more important than looking their best heading into the playoffs.

And to conclude in the spirit of focusing on what can be improved, it was indeed good to see the Boozer/Noah combination exist, and play pretty well together at times. Like the rest of the team, there wasn't much good to be said from about the mid-3rd quarter on, but they were working nicely offensively, with Boozer assisting 4 of Noah's baskets. Still showed to be a work in progress of course, as Boozer had some really bad turnovers and wasn't getting high-percentage shots, and Noah wound up with only 4 rebounds in 28 minutes, which just feels wrong.