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Derrick Rose came back and all and he busted out a few ankle-breaking crossovers and high-flying, death-defying layups. But that didn't make a severely disappointing Bulls performance on Monday any easier to swallow.
For a team to come up short like that in front of a holiday matinee crowd of 22,033 (I remember it exactly because I won the guess-the-attendance game - thank you, thank you very much), well, it wasn't just devastating to me, it was devastating to my two daughters, who joined my wife and I at the game.
What's that you say? The Bulls had a bit of a lull in the third quarter and into the fourth but otherwise pulled out a solid victory (90-79) over a sure-to-be playoff team? Derrick Rose looked good after missing five games due to back spasms (except on defense, where he was one of several Bulls guards whose deficiencies led to South Sider Jannero Pargo going off for a season-high 19 points).
And Luol Deng scored the big buckets (the biggest of which was a three-pointer to stretch a six-point lead to nine with a couple minutes remaining) and made the sort of big passes (like the one to Carlos Boozer for a dunk a minute earlier) that make him a very deserving All-Star.
I hear you but I don't mind saying, after a 35-point Bulls first quarter, I was dreaming of one thing and one thing only - a free Big Mac. And when the Bulls' point totals went down to 20 in the second quarter, 18 in the third and an anemic 17 in the fourth, they never even had a chance to break the 100-point mark that would have made the free burger a reality. Booooooo.
Hoo boy, I think I'm becoming a cutesy Bully fan (although I also have the excuse of viewing the game through a different lens when I'm there with my pregame- and halftime-show loving daughters). Did I also mention that Brian Scalabrine is my absolute fave player and the Luv-A-Bulls are soooo hot?
After all, I have to do something during the last few months before I can finally return to the shrine of baseball known as Wrigley Field. That's where I sit in the bleachers and even throw back batting practice homers hit by the opposing team. On my way in I worship at the altar of Harry Caray and I don't care if the Cubs lose because we're all just having such a good time anyway.
Yikes. Returning now to the perspective of the skeptical sportswriter . . . so Rose clearly seemed healthy enough and while he was a little rusty (missing four of his first six free throws) he also did what we talked about earlier and tossed in a couple clutch intermediate jump shots down the stretch. The fact that he skipped the post-game interview was a bit of a cause for concern but there are a variety of potential explanations for that other than his not wanting to show that his back was hurting him again.
The Hawks have a ton of talent and the Bulls don't necessarily match up well against them but they won't really be a threat this year without center Al Horford, who is out for the season with an injury. So a victory over them isn't exactly a massive milestone.
And the big news from this past week was the Heat passing the Bulls for the best record in the NBA. The team from Miami has only seven losses at this point while the home team's setback against the Nets (their worst loss of the year) on Saturday gave it eight.
The Heat is hitting on all cylinders at this point, having recently put together a stretch in which they beat three probable playoff teams in three nights all on the road and all by double-digit margins. (Miami toyed with Orlando on Sunday, making it clear the Magic are not close to competing with the conference leaders.)
And here comes the All-Star break. The Bulls take their mid-season hiatus after hosting the Bucks tomorrow night. A win would be nice but of course the real challenge for the Bulls against the defensive-minded team from Milwaukee will be hitting the century mark. Let's just hope these guys can stay focused and get the job done this time.
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