Every time the Chicago Bulls win against a good team, we’re reminded this team has the talent to win the NBA championship. From Pau Gasol and his impressive consistency, to Jimmy Butler upgrading himself this season, and to Derrick Rose who is impossible to read. But not all days are like the one in which they beat the Phoenix Suns 112-107.
Pau Gasol scored 22 points, Jimmy Butler added 19, Derrick Rose was pretty good and efficient with 16 and the bench did a much better job than in the loss to the Pistons, with two players (Taj Gibson and Aaron Brooks) scoring in double figures, while Joakim Noah focuses on doing everything but score, adding 12 rebounds and 8 assists to the important cause. But are they going to keep this up? That’s the question we’ve been asking all season.
The Phoenix Suns look different. Brandon Knight started off the bench and the Suns will now be trying to make the playoffs (or will they?) without Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas. The Suns didn’t want players who have no interest in staying on the team for the long run, and will now build their hopes around Knight (scoring 12 points on his debut, not too far away from the team he just left in Milwaukee) and Eric Bledsoe, scoring 13 points that came with 8 assists and 3 steals.
P.J. Tucker led the Suns with 20 points, as Phoenix led for most of the game but seemed a bit confused in the dying minutes of the evening, not quite sure through who to run the plays. With the playoffs getting away from them (1.5 games behind the Thunder for 8th in the West), they need to figure out who is doing what and when pretty fast. Part of that issue is why the Bulls were able to come back and win, not suddenly figuring it all out.
And part of figuring it out will be defense. The Bulls are only 13th in defensive efficiency this season, giving up 102.1 points per 100 possession. Sure, their offense is in unknown realms as far as they’re concerned, 8th in the NBA with 105.6 points per 100 possessions, but people tend to forget how good offensively this team used to be when Rose was playing, even in the injury riddled 2011-2012 campaign. The defense shouldn’t be this easy to score again.
There’s still time to fix it, but maybe it’ll be about the Bulls having to outscore everyone instead of buckling down and shutting teams down. For the first time in ages, they have the personnel to go shot for shot with pretty much anyone in the league, and a bench that’s quite capable of supporting that kind of plan. Mike Dunleavy played well, scoring 15 points after getting shut out in the previous night. There are many keys to their championship hopes, but maybe the veteran small forward is the most important of them all in his own quiet way, which makes his return so important.