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Monday, December 26, 2011

Bulls: A win all their own

Posted By on 12.26.11 at 01:00 PM

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The Bulls' season-opening 88-87 Christmas Day win over the Lakers in Los Angeles bore the earmarks of the Michael Jordan era, in that the Bulls displayed an attitude, in the end, that wasn't self-defeating: The other team would have to stick the dagger at some point. When the Lakers didn't, blowing an 11-point lead in the final four minutes with the help of four missed free throws down the stretch, the Bulls took advantage. Otherwise, this was a win all the Bulls' own, i.e., the Bulls of the Derrick Rose era.

They played a solid first half in taking a 56-49 win into the intermission, but then looked utterly miserable for most of the second half. The Lakers tightened their interior defense, which led to the Bulls forcing the play on the outside, and they scored just 12 points in the third quarter in allowing the Lakers to take a 69-68 lead. The Lakers' offense grew more fluid in the final quarter, allowing them to take a double-digit lead at 80-70 with five minutes to play and 82-71 at the 3:45 mark. Then the Bulls tightened their defense, and they ran the Lakers down. They finished the comeback in the final minute, double-teaming Kobe Bryant, and with Luol Deng making the steal on the forced pass. Deng almost gave the ball back, leaving his feet and just giving the ball up before landing, at which point Rose composed the team and calmly drove into the lane, getting one of his trademark one-handed floaters up over Pau Gasol and in. (See the entire sequence here at the bottom of the game recap on the Bulls' site.) Bryant tried to pull off his own game winner, but the Bulls collapsed three men on him, with Taj Gibson closing from behind and Joakim Noah from inside in support of Deng, and they swatted the shot aside. It was a Bulls win that seemed familiar in its inevitability when it was over, but also entirely fresh and new—a win all their own.

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