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The Bulls may be getting a new patch to place on their uniforms, a picture of an M1 Abrams inside a circle with that diagonal line running top left to bottom right.
That’s correct: No tanking!
“Whatever your circumstances are, make the best of those circumstances,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said at the end of yet another draining day for this group of players, the trade of team captain and 10-year veteran Luol Deng. “That’s the challenge of this league. To not get distracted by all that other stuff and do what you need to be successful. That’s what I like about this team. This team’s been hit a lot of different ways, but they always get up. They always get up.”
Noah did again with his team best 13th double-double and exceeded five assists for the sixth time, the most among NBA centers.The Bulls sat up in their corner Tuesday and decided to come out for another round. No throwing in the towel for this team. No one’s quitting and no one’s had enough.
Cut ‘em, Thibs. Cut ‘em.
The Bulls in the wake of the latest loss of a leading scorer, this time the Monday night trade of Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for an expiring contract and draft picks some six weeks after Derrick Rose’s knee surgery, did their own operation on the hot Phoenix Suns.
With Taj Gibson starting again for the injured Carlos Boozer and getting 19 points and 10 rebounds, Joakim Noah with 14 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, Jimmy Butler and D.J. Augustin with 13 each and Kirk Hinrich with a pivotal three-pointer with two minutes left, the Bulls defeated the Suns 92-87.
It was the Bulls third consecutive win and sixth in their last eight to raise their record to 15-18. The Suns led by Goran Dragic with 21 fell to 20-13.
“It doesn’t matter with them whether they have five people,” said the Suns’ Channing Frye. “You know that they are going to be playing hard.”
Whether the Bulls can maintain that remarkable commitment and consistency, holding the No. 1 transition team in the NBA to half their regular total with just 10 fast break points, will be watched carefully the rest of this season. Boozer is expected to return from knee soreness Friday in Milwaukee. Point guard Marquis Teague is expected to be recalled from the D-League, and the Bulls likely will have to add a 10-day contract player to meet the NBA minimum of 13 players after the Deng trade.
The Bulls Tuesday effectively went with eight players as they rarely use rookie Erik Murphy. But they held the high scoring Suns to six of 23 on threes and one point above their season low scoring total. Perhaps at some point it will be too much to continue this defensive ferocity that has the Bulls back in the middle of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference at just two games out of third.
The conventional wisdom, at least outside the Bulls’ locker room with the loss of Rose and the trade of Deng, was the Bulls would be backing up in the standings on the way to the lottery and a higher draft pick.
But the players don’t seem to have gotten the memo.
“That’s what this city loves about us,” said Butler, who shot four of 18, but made four big steals in a rugged 40 minutes. “We’re going to fight and we’re still expecting to win games and we’re going out to compete and no one can overlook us. That’s for sure.
“Jo feels we have a lot to prove,” Butler added about Noah, the only player who declined to talk to reporters about Deng, his closest friend on the team. “People count us out and Jo’s not one to go for that at all. People overlook us. Jo’s going to put that game face on and compete and play well.”
Noah did again with his team best 13th double-double and exceeded five assists for the sixth time, the most among NBA centers.