Going into Tuesday night, the first game after the All Star break, I don’t think a lot of people counted the Hornets as a team that would be able to keep up with the Chicago Bulls. Maybe that’s one of the reasons New Orleans came out with a fiery passion to win.
There was only one time in the game where Chicago had a comfortable lead, and they were up by 11. Every time it looked like the Bulls were going to pull away and extend on that lead, the Hornets just kept coming back. New Orleans even managed to pull ahead by 4 at the end of the game until Derrick Rose turned on his MVP skills and closed them out, giving the Bulls a 99-95 win.
Rose has been criticized of not being able to make free throws in the clutch this year, but tonight he proved that he is still as clutch as the MVP should be. Not only did he make the free throws that put the game out of reach, he also made the go-ahead bucket to pull the Bulls ahead.
Rose finished with 32 points and 9 assists, while Deng racked up a double-double scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Noah also got himself a double-double scoring 15 points and snatching up 16 rebounds. Boozer was able to add 14 points of his own, but his play down the stretch reminded everyone why Boozer isn’t good in the clutch. His defense was still soft and he had a costly turnover in the paint that would have put the Bulls in front sooner.
Richard Hamilton was back in the lineup tonight after missing several games due to groin and thigh injuries. Although only playing 17 minutes, and only scoring 5 points, his presence on the court was made known. His limited minutes were probably due to him not being back to full strength, but hopefully he will be 100% soon and can finish out games in the 4th quarter. When he is on the court, everyone is able to get better looks because of his off ball movement and his ability to pass the ball.
Chris Kaman was a constant thorn in the Bulls’ side the entire game, scoring 17 points and getting 11 rebounds. Trevor Ariza also shined for the Hornets scoring 16 points and getting 8 rebounds.
The Bulls, who are now 28-8 on the season, head into San Antonio tomorrow to face the Spurs, who are currently second in their division with a 24-10 record. This game will be a real test for the Bulls, who should have their full roster ready to play a good team. Will Boozer be able to put up good numbers against an above .500 team? Will Joakim Noah record another double-double? Will Rip play more than 20 minutes? All these exciting questions will be answered in the next exciting installment of CHICAGO BULLS BASKETBALL (8pm on CSN and ESPN).