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Bulls have Better Gordon and the win over Clippers
by Sam Smith
Posted on Dec 18
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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.
Not only did the Bulls recover and win in overtime Wednesday over the Los Angeles Clippers, 115-109, but also won the battle of Who is the best Gordon.
“I’d say I got him with the and 1,” said the Bulls Ben, who, along with the Bulls, benefited from the Dumb Rookie Play of the Week. That was by the Clippers Eric, who fouled Ben on a three-point attempt, which went in and with the free throw enabled the Bulls to overcome a four-point deficit with 20.5 seconds left in regulation and then win in overtime.
Still, it was a heck of a shot after the foul, a double pump coming across the lane to Ben’s right as he surfaced past a Drew Gooden screen.
“He (Eric) had been doing that all game, reaching down for guys shooting,” said Ben. “I got a little freedom from the pick and fortunately Eric Gordon grabbed my arm. It was a big play for us.”
Very big and very fortunate as the Clippers played volleyball over the heads of the Bulls, battering the Bulls on the boards 55-39 with Marcus Camby getting a career high 27 rebounds, 10 offensive of the Clippers 20 offensive rebounds and 60 points inside.
“That was probably the best rebounding performance I’ve seen from anybody,” marveled Gooden, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds and, like the rest of the Bulls, spent considerable time watching Area 23, that being the flying object that was Camby.
“The ball was finding him,” said Gooden. “It was, ‘Where’s Camby?'”
Fortunately for the Bulls, the Clippers have a rather predictable offense.
Everyone takes turns going one-on-one, throws up a shot and then everyone runs to the basket for the rebound. And it looked like it was going to work as the Clippers overcame a 12-point deficit early in the second half to pull ahead by four with 25.1 seconds left in regulation as Zach Randolph, with 30 points and 14 free throw attempts, kept backing Andres Nocioni in for scores while Gooden searched around for Camby.
Randolph scored eight of the Clippers last 10 regulation points on an assortment of power post moves for scores or free throws as everyone pretty much stood around and watched.
This was not a particularly graceful effort on the part of either team and the Bulls spent considerable time caught up in the Clippers’ isolation and quick shot game. You know, you score on me and I’ll try to score on you to show you I can.
But the Clippers aren’t exactly candidates for Obama’s team of economic advisors. There was Eric Gordon’s inexplicable foul, and then the Clippers got the ball back with 20.5 seconds left and the game tied at 106.
So you go to Zach, right?
That was the play, said coach Mike Dunleavy.
Instead, Al Thornton, who had 20 points and was attacking Luol Deng relentlessly all game, ran and got the ball, and then instead of going to the basket faded away for a long baseline three that rimmed out.
“We made too many mental errors,” said Dunleavy. “At the end of regulation the last play was called for Zach Randolph and didn’t run that way. Zach was hurting them all night. (But) we have 12 new players, 12, and it’s hard to integrate that many new people.”
Or apparently explain the difference between a Zach and an Al.
And so the Bulls went to overtime for a second consecutive game after the stunning loss in Charlotte Tuesday, and this time the basketball gods—that’s who Ben Gordon agreed helped—were on the Bulls side after that questionable foul call enabled the Bobcats to go into overtime and then win.
It was a Hue Hollins moment Tuesday, and then came a Brian Forte moment. Or was it Jason Phillips. It wasn’t fully clear who among the officials was in charge. But the Bulls were trailing 109-108 after Randolph—again—opened the overtime with a field goal and free throw.
Deng, who had struggled to find his shot and Thornton much of regulation, had hit a jumper on his slashing pull up move and later would add another crucial 20 footer off a scramble to give the Bulls the overtime lead they wouldn’t lose.
“I just stuck with it,” said Deng.
So it’s 109-108 Clippers and Baron Davis launches a three, which Camby, of course, retrieves and gives to Thornton who drives and is fouled by Deng. As Thornton heads to the free throw line with a chance to give the Clippers a three-point lead, the referees huddle and decide to reverse the call and call instead an offensive foul on Randolph.
Huh, said Dunleavy, though somewhat more colorfully.
“You need a little luck, a little fortune here and there, no question,” said Bulls coach Del Negro. “You never know. That’s the beauty of basketball. You’ve got to keep finding a way and believe in the system and trust your teammates and fight for the win. Some nights are easier than others. No question things went our way, but the guys battled hard. We were not fortunate (Tuesday) night and a little fortunate tonight.”
But the Bulls still had to make plays, and Derrick Rose had one left on still another poor shooting night, five of 17 for 16 points as teams have been collapsing and forming a virtual zone as he drives.
“I’m getting in a little (bad) groove now,” said Rose, eight of 33 the last two games. “I haven’t found my shot. I’ve got to stay in the gym longer. It’s all about confidence. They’re backing up (on the drive) and I’ve just got to make them pay for it.”
Before Deng dropped in that second overtime jumper to make it 110-109 with 1:09 left, Randolph came up short with Nocioni defending aggressively and Nocioni then collapsed in a heap on the next Clippers’ possession as Randolph turned in, drawing the offensive foul.
“It’s frustrating because everyone in the league knows what he does,” said Camby. “He flops.”
“Let’s say,” said Ben Gordon, “Noce is one of those guys you love having on your team and hate when he’s on the other team.”
Then Rose put his head down like an NFL running back, cupped the ball under his arm as he drove hard left, scored and was fouled for a three-point play and 113-109 lead with 42.6 seconds left.
“The guy guarding me was stronger, so I knew he was going to reach,” said Rose. “I needed to take my time and try to get the and 1.”
But there was time for one more Eric Gordon foul up as he lazily attempted to put the ball into Randolph in the right post and Larry Hughes, feigning disinterest, picked it off and the Clippers were left to foul.
“Knowing they went to that pretty much the last 14, 15 minutes of the game, I anticipated,” said Hughes. “I was laying back and kind of set him up and made him think I wouldn’t go for (the pass). It’s a rookie and you take advantage.”
And so the Bulls did, Gooden scoring early and Nocioni with one of those Noce Nights that even had upper deck fans chanting “Noc-I-oni” like a few years ago in the playoffs.
“I am struggling right now with my game,” said Nocioni, shooting nine for 29 the last four games before Wednesday. “So I need a game like this for my confidence. I think I need to give a lot of good defense for this team. If I play good D, everyone else will play good D.”
Well, that’s somewhat debatable, but Nocioni did make the defensive play of the game and a momentum changer of sorts with a flying-out-of-nowhere block of a fast break layup attempt by rookie Mike Taylor with the Clippers leading 92-88 with 6:51 left. Nocioni then followed with a 14 footer as he equaled Ben Gordon for team scoring highs with 22, and effectively prevented the Clippers from pushing out to a big lead.
Nocioni then hit a pair of threes in the next two minutes as he and Gordon combined for 20 fourth quarter points and held off the Clippers almost on their own in the fourth.
“Noce is going to put his body on you and battle you,” said Del Negro. “He makes big shots and comes at you. Defensively, even though Zach had 30 points, I thought he did a good job and got that big charge at the end.”
That rotation was a risk for the Bulls that worked out, though barely.
Del Negro stayed small basically throughout the fourth quarter, so Nocioni was in to make those big shots. But Gooden kept trying to help on Randolph, which enabled Camby to gather just about every miss.
It worked because Nocioni hit those shots. But Joakim Noah earlier in the game had a good stretch against Camby. He finished with seven points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals and was flying all over the place toward the end of the second quarter with a pair of blocks and steals as he led the Bulls to a 56-47 halftime edge.
“Joakim came in and gave us a good effort,” said Del Negro. “But I thought our smaller lineup was playing scrappier.”
Part of the reason for staying small was Tyrus Thomas left the game early after experiencing dizziness from some hits he took in prior games and another Wednesday and was diagnosed with a concussion and won’t travel with the team to Boston for Friday’s game.
“He started running on the court and began blacking out. We need to be real careful with that,” said Del Negro. A CT scan was fine. He’ll see the doctors and get reevaluated.”
But the Bulls got some good injury news with Kirk Hinrich, who had the pin in his thumb removed and may be able to begin practicing or handling the ball in two or three weeks, perhaps accelerating his recovery.
“How soon depends on how I feel,” said Hinrich.
So the Bulls felt pretty good and relieved, got within .500 again at 12-13, but now go to Boston, which remains on pace to win 70 games or more.
“That was a huge game for us,” said Gooden. “They feel now how we felt after the Charlotte game, and they fouled a three-point shooter, so they probably feel even worse.”