I warned you about the cheesy headlines...
This game is full of story lines and excuses.
Derrick Rose before the game promised to join other NBA players in donating $1000 to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Relief Fund for every point he scored tonight. Rose said after the game that he didn't do anything special, "I was just taking the shots that they were giving me. They were giving me mid-range so i was taking it."
The scuttlebutt in the media room however, was that Rose said before the game that he was going to light it up. He did, dropping a clean 32 points on 15/21 shooting against a Suns defense who's plan was to give him open shots in order to keep him out of the lane. In a classic case of pick your poison, Alvin Gentry's game plan going in was to make the Bulls (a relatively poor shooting team) "beat us over the top".
"I think Chicago did the unexpected and hit shots," Amare Stoudemire in a show of respect for his opponent's statistical history. "They're not known as a great shooting team and came out tonight hitting shots. We had to make an adjustment and try to run off their shots in the second half, but once they got it going it was tough to turn them off."
Funny how that works isn't it. You give an NBA team open shots and they hit them. You then try and take away those open shots but their confidence is already high and they keep hitting them. Stop me if you've heard this song before.
Of course, the Suns haven't had much of a choice since they've been destroyed by teams penetrating the lane and scoring even higher percentage looks at the rim. The league's second to worst defensive team simply doesn't have many good options beyond hoping their opponent misses open jump shots.
That explains giving up 50% shooting to a Bulls team that's 26th in the league but what about the #1 Suns offense only hitting on 38% of their attempts.
That was a combination of solid Bulls defense with an assist from Nash's aching body.
"You know what, I had nothing tonight physically. I came to shootaround (this morning) and felt great and I came down to shoot before the game and I felt like I had arthritis in every joint in my body," Nash said when I asked him about how he felt during this game. "It happens like that sometimes. I just had no pop in my legs and everything was sore tonight. It's frustrating but I've got to feel lucky it's happened very rarely this year and it happens fairly regularly I think whether it's every five games or ten games or twenty games or whatever when you get into your thirties it happens. I've had very few nights like that but tonight I just couldn't physically do it and it was frustrating because I felt like I let my guys down."
Nash isn't concerned about playing Saturday against the Warriors. He said there's no predicting what nights he won't "have it" but that he should be fine to play on the back to back where he's performed well all season.
I think we all can agree that when Nash is feeling his age and playing without his usual pop that the Suns are going to struggle. It helps explain why the Suns were +7 with Nash on the bench in the 2nd quarter and were able to close a nine point gap in the second quarter and even tied the game twice before Nash returned at the 5:24 mark with the Suns only down two. The Bulls then closed the half on a 17-9 run.
Nash and Coach Gentry both also gave credit to Bulls defensive specialist Kirk Hinrich who enjoys the opportunity to lock down some of the leagues top scorers. It was obvious the Bulls were playing a great defensive game when the Hinrich/Noah combination was able to cover the deadly Nash/Stoudemire high pick and roll without bringing help.
Hinrich had this to say about their coverage, "It's important. Steve is so good. He gets space then gets in the lane and makes plays. We tried to play him with as few of our guys as possible. When he gets into the lane he draw help which throws the other guys off so you are really in trouble then."
The shame of it was the Suns did a great job in the two areas that Gentry has been focused on lately. Rebounding and turnovers. With the continued presence of Robin Lopez getting his hands on loose balls and a great effort from Richardson (8) and Frye (8) the Suns out-rebounded the Bulls 49-42.
In an even more rare occurrence, the Suns had 19 offensive rebounds and 20 second chance points compared to only 8 and 6 for the Bulls. Of course, the Suns had far more opportunities for offensive rebounds since they were missing so many shots.
Combine the great glass work with a 46 to 34 advantage in points in the paint and only 10 turnovers and the Suns had a lot of positives in the this game. If the team was playing better lately you could easily overlook the Bulls shooting better than normal combined with Nash having an off night.
Unfortunately, the Suns are in a dog fight for a playoff position and simply can't afford to drop many games regardless of the excuse(s).
Play of the Game
The play of the game came in the 4th quarter when Hinrich stripped the ball from Richardson and quickly advanced it to Rose. Dragic recovered and closed quickly and jumped to contest what (let's face it) would have been an easy routine dunk if Nash had been on the floor.
Instead, with Dragic elevating to attempt a block, Rose rose even further, cocking the ball behind his head and throwing down a truly awesome two-hand jam.
Rose feigned humility about that play in his post-game locker room interview, "I didn't even know he was going to jump at first. I was just going to go up and dunk it. He jumped and so I guess I pulled it back and I just put it in"
Our crack photographer, Max Simbron got the shot and emailed it to me right after the game. I was able to download the picture and show it to Goran in the locker room. I felt kind of bad about doing that but Dragic had nothing to be ashamed of. He did a great job defending Rose in the flow of the game and was impressive even trying to block this easy shot.
Dragic was a good sport about it but he clearly wasn't happy that he didn't get high enough to get the block. He's a nice guy but the kid's also a baller and doesn't like getting beat. It is unfortunate that he will be in Rose's poster but hopefully he will get some credit for even trying to stop the play when this gets replayed 300 times tomorrow.
Derrick Rose with a head start and full head of steam was simply amazing and there's nothing more Dragic could have done.
Here's the play:
Post Game Audio:
1st Qtr (26-35)
- Amare goes right at Taj Gibson. I don't see Taj being able to do much about that. Ever
- LB for three...nice start
- Bulls are active and attacking quickly. Not letting Suns "defense" get set up
- Robin w/ the great put back. Ball bounced on to his hands and he didn't bring it down. Nice little put back and hits the FT
- Noah hit a jump shot. That's worth writing down
- Suns going under screens daring Hinrich to shoot. He is. And he's making them
- There should be a way to quantify every time Robin tips a ball and it goes out of bounds on the other team and the Suns get possession. Not a rebound but worth as much
- Tyrus does a good job getting in front of Amare and taking the charge
- Robin with a beautiful block at the rim and Nash turns the ball over coming up the court. Damn
- Bulls are hot - hitting a lot of contested J's. And by Bulls I mean Deng.
- Rose and Hinrich are hitting wide open J's
- Nice D. Robin and Nash trap Rose w/ the ball high and LB and Grant collapse and strip Noah in the lane
- Frye in w/ 3 min in the 1st. Suns down 20-24
- Frye gets and hits a wide open 3. We all needed that
- Bulls got on a run and end the qtr up 35-26. Gentry's plan was to keep the Bulls out of the paint and shooting over the top. Plan is working except Bulls are hitting their shots
2nd Qtr (54-64)
- Amare doing a better job drawing those cheap fouls when guys have their hands reaching in and he swings the ball up for a shot
- Nice strong move from Channing to attack the rim and take the hit - get to the line. Atta boi, Frye
- If you put a comma after using the slang "boi" do you diminish the effect?
- JRich posting up Rose. Love that
- Jason lighting it up. This unit with JRich, Frye, Amare, Dudley and Goran is playing well. 12-6 run to start the quarter
- A couple of times Amare and Robin both had weak shows on the high screen and Rose easily turned the corner. They need to jump hard and trap the ball and trust the rotation behind them
- Channing managed to hold his ground against the post moves of Taj Gibson...no comment
- Suns doing some nice things offensively. Different stuff. Double screens. Ball/player movement. You know, something other than pick and roll
- Suns starters back in w/ 5:19 and down 2. And by starters I mean Nash and Lopez and Hill. Amare and Jason stayed on the floor. So that makes the line-up Nash and those other 4 guys
- Bulls are running a little ball screen with Noah an Deng that is confusing the crap out of the Suns D (mostly Amare). They don't know if they are switching it, going under, or what but it's gotten Deng a ton of open looks and he's got 11 points
- Since starters came back in Bulls on a 9-2 run
- Robin did have another great stuff resulting in a jump ball with Gibson. Robin's court demeanor is fantastic. Aggressive and fired up but only 1 foul
- Robin got jobbed on a clean block but he's had a few other fouls that weren't called and Robin picks up another questionable call. That's three. Jinxed the big guy. Sorry
- Rose on fire...hitting a little floater to give Bulls a 12 pt lead
3rd Qtr (83-88)
- Bulls put Noah on Amare and Gibson on Lopez. Amare draws the foul on Noah (good) but I would like to see the Suns go to Robin abuse Taj as well
- Noah catches the ball deep in the paint. Amare and Lopez sky to block his shot but instead of jumping into the contact or even pump faking and going up again, he tries this silly little side step move and misses a weird reverse lay-up. Genius
- Much better start to the half on both ends. Suns cut lead to 4 and drop two quick fouls on Noah which puts him on the bench w/ 4
- Also Robin stands at least 6 inches behind the FT line when he shoots FTs
- LB and Hill ran a little pick and pop. That's new
- Suns tie it at 75. Bulls call a time out. Walking back to the bench Nash reaches up and puts his hands on Robin's shoulders and gives him a love shake
- How long before they have Lopez #15 jerseys in the team shop
- Amare just fouled Nash and they didn't call it! Come on ref!!
- Has anyone ever seen Luol Deng put the ball on the deck? Ever?
- Suns in the zone. Bulls quickly find Tyrus on the back line but Amare turns and blocks his shot
- Derrick Rose really loves Haiti. 13/18 for 27 points. Maybe he will shoot himself out and not have the...oh hell
- Holy cow. Deng attacked the rim after Dudley bodied up on him
- Genius move from Dudley to draw Noah's 5th foul has he closed out on the corner 3
- This unit is playing well. Great D and energy. Goran, Dudley, Lou, Frye and Jason
- Rose back in...ruh roh
- Crowd goes go nuts on a series of no calls on some very physical play from Tyrus
- Dudley retaliates with a nice hard foul on Gibson sending him to the deck. Refs fault for not calling the previous plays but gotta luv JD for delivering the blow
- 8:40. 3 point game 89-92. Suns playing hard. Feeling pretty good about this one right now
- If only Channing got to defend Taj Gibson in the post every night
- Goran is playing solid D on Rose...really making him work and not letting him get free and get to his spots. Then he makes me proud w/ a sweet lob to JRich!
- Wow. Rose just destroyed poor Dragic with that Dunk. Welcome to my poster, Goran
- It might not get much notice, but Salons had a few key buckets there to kick the Bulls lead up to 8
- Ok so why isn't Robin back in the game?
- BTW - Hinrich has a sweet steal on Richardson somewhere back in there
- Bulls defending Hill and Frye with Deng and Salmons and switching. Frye is too easy to defend w/ a smaller guy and he can't hang on the other end
- This Bulls line up with Deng, Salmons, and Noah up front along w/ Rose and Hinrich is really good defensively b/c they can switch almost anything on the perimeter. Suns not getting any open looks
- But Frye hits a couple of big threes to cut it to 4
- 5 point game. 2:45. Why did the Bulls need to pick this game to play well?
- Suns only shooting 40%. Got to give the Bulls some credit for that
- Hinrich and Noah have done a great job defending the pick and roll with only two players and Bulls hitting their shots
- As great as Rose was, Salmons going 6/9 and hitting some big shots was the difference in the game