The Chicago Bulls (8-5) fell behind early, 29-8, to Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns (7-8) on Wednesday night. The defense was slow to react to the Suns’ attack in the transition game. Phoenix began the game by stroking three-pointers seemingly at will. And this took place with the Bulls’ offense looking flat.
The 2-time MVP award recipient, Steve Nash, had an excellent game. He was finding teammates and setting them up with passes that could make any scorer look good – including, former Bull, Hakim Warrick (23 points). Nash finished the game with 16 assists on only three turnovers. But Chicago still managed to scratch and claw their way back into the game.
The Bulls chopped a 23-point Phoenix lead down to 12 at halftime. Then Kyle Korver and Luol Deng sparked a 13-4 Bulls run in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to three points. With less than a minute to go, it was Steve Nash who lost the ball to Joakim Noah, which led to a game-tying James Johnson dunk – off of a Derrick Rose assist. Johnson gave the Bulls a big lift in Taj Gibson’s absence. But on the subsequent play, he was disqualified upon committing a bone-headed foul which allowed Steve Nash to put the Suns back ahead, 101-99. This was followed by Derrick Rose drawing a foul on Grant Hill and netting two clutch free throws of his own to once again knot the score.
Grant Hill missed the potential game-winning basket as he was draped over defensively by Ronnie Brewer.
The Bulls took their first lead of the game in the opening possession of the first overtime as Derrick Rose nailed an open 20-footer. Grant Hill, Channing Frye, and Jason Richardson would not go down quietly. They gave Phoenix their final push of the night and had the Suns ahead, 110-107, with 12 seconds left in the OT.
Joakim Noah then played the role of hero. He would follow a Rose miss with a game-saving tip-in. And then, after Jason Richardson splitting a pair at the free throw line, Joakim would send the game into a second OT by finding a cutting Derrick Rose along the baseline.
The shooting of Korver, Deng, and Rose would put the Suns on their heels in the second, and final, overtime. Derrick Rose fouled out with 1:38 remaining, but by then the Bulls already had built a 5-point lead. Rose pulled down 12 rebounds, had seven assists, and scored 35 points (14-of-33 shooting) in 50 minutes – 11 of those points coming in the two overtime periods. Another steal by Joakim Noah (17 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists) would snuff out the Suns’ last hopes. Both teams would hear “Let’s go, Bulls” chants fill the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix when it became clear that they had successfully pulled off the huge comeback victory.
The Chicago Bulls defeated the Suns 123-115 (2OT) and are now 3-2 on their “circus trip.” The team showed a lot of resolve and their young leader, Derrick Rose, is looking like a true MVP candidate so far through the 13 game-old season. Even without their starting power forward, Rose and the Bulls proved to be valiant foes against a respectable Suns’ offensive unit tonight.
Luol Deng had a quiet yet strong game – scoring 26 points with 10 rebounds.
The Bulls’ next game will be Friday on CSN (8:00 CT) as they visit the Denver Nuggets.