Late in the third quarter against the Suns, the Bulls were in danger of a second straight rough loss after the All-Star break. Phoenix led by eight points with under two minutes to go in the quarter, but Chicago closed the frame on a run and kept the momentum going into the fourth quarter before eking out a 112-107 victory.
The Bulls closed the gap to two points by the end of the third quarter on a Pau Gasol corner three, a play that has become a staple of the end-of-quarter offense. Then a group that featured predominantly bench players plus Joakim Noah sparked the team at the outset of the fourth quarter to finally create some separation.
The charge was led by Taj Gibson and Aaron Brooks, both of whom sucked in the first half. Brooks was a turnover machine in the second quarter and Gibson somehow managed to post zero points and zero rebounds in 14 first-half minutes, but the two combined for 18 points in the fourth quarter. Tony Snell also hit a big three-pointer and played the entire fourth quarter with Kirk Hinrich out with an illness.
The Bulls went up by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, but the Suns made it interesting down the stretch by scoring on five straight possessions at one point. Gasol and Derrick Rose came up with some timely buckets, and Rose knocked down two clutch free throws before Eric Bledsoe missed a potential game-tying three. Jimmy Butler came up with the huge rebound and iced the game at the line.
The Bulls had stretches of both great and terrible play in this game. The offense was humming early, but the Suns kept it close despite a bunch of turnovers. It was Chicago's turn to cough the ball up left and right in the second quarter, and Phoenix capitalized on those turnovers and made a killing in transition throughout the game. (23 fast break points)
The Suns -- outside of Markieff Morris -- shot the ball very well (44-of-73 minus Morris and their bench had 49 points), and they were even pushing the ball off made baskets. There were several occasions where Phoenix got easy baskets in transition even after Chicago had made a basket. That type of stuff is inexcusable.
But the Bulls turned it on when they needed to, and the final offensive numbers were impressive, outside of the 17 turnovers. Chicago shot 12-of-24 from three and six Bulls scored in double figures, with Gasol leading the way with 22 points. Gasol also grabbed 14 rebounds to notch a double-double after his long streak ended in Detroit.
Butler cooled off after a hot start, but he still finished with 19 points. Rose didn't play all that great with 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting, although he was hampered with some foul trouble and was generally aggressive outside of a few ill-advised three-pointers. Mike Dunleavy had 15 points after the goose egg last night, and Joakim Noah had 12 rebounds (six offensive) and eight assists. Noah appeared to tweak something in his leg in the first half, but it didn't show in the second half.
This may not have been the prettiest of wins, but I'll take it after the suckfest in the Motor City on Friday night. This was the first game of a seven-game home stand, and it would be nice to see the Bulls finally take advantage of playing on their home floor.
Taj Gibson said he's playing with a stage 2 ligament tear in his left hand and has been for four weeks.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) February 22, 2015