If you had asked me on Friday that the Bulls would win a game this weekend, I would've made a healthy wager on them taking out the Sixers that night. I figured that perhaps after their blowout win against the Cavs the team would be carrying momentum into beating a fellow struggling Eastern Conference team.
While the Sixers looked as bad as advertised, the Bulls still lost to them, despite a late run in the 4th quarter that at least showed once again that this is a team that will not give up. However, when they had a chance to win, there was nobody on the court who could create a shot. Hinrich was probably the best option, but he was called for a critical (and I say BS) offensive foul.
Saturday against the Timberwolves, that 'closer' emerged: Ben Gordon. With 31 points in 31 minutes, Gordon had the best game of his young career. While the Bulls had opened up a 20 point lead in the first quarter, it was Gordon who kept the game out of reach when Minnesota made its predictable comeback in the second half. He was making shots from the outside (4-4 from 3), and inside with a variety of jumpers and floaters in the lane. Most importantly, he showed a quick first step that nobody else on the team can claim. The kind of step that breaks down a defense and creates plays. The kind of step that wins close ballgames. It's been a running theme by me over the season: I don't know why this kid isn't on the floor more. Who knows what could've happened if he was out there to finish out the Philly game?
Here's what I said before the season about Gordon:
Ben Gordon was picked #3 in the draft to fill the scoring void, but has shot terribly in the preseason so far. I have a feeling though that after an initial struggle he will provide a breakout game that will enable him to at least provide a reliable, offensive-minded 6th man off the bench.
Note how I said 'at least'. Trying not to look to much into one game (remember Jay Williams' triple-double against Jason Kidd and the Nets?), but maybe we'll look back on this Minnesota game as the notice of his arrival. And a notice to Skiles to get him on the court.
Beyond Gordon, the teen towers, Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler, also played well against Minny. When I heard Skiles on the radio pre-game show saying that Curry was going to start the game guarding Kevin Garnett, I was expecting Curry to look as lost as a fat kid playing dodgeball. But he actually did well, and maybe used the defensive challenge to help him on the offensive end, as he got the Bulls off to that hot start making his first 4 shots. Its tough to get that excited about it though, since in the game against Philly him and Chandler were busy getting their shots thrown back at them by Samuel Dalembert. I hope the right scouts see Curry at the right games, because nobody goes from prospective world-beater to invisible from game-to-game like Curry.
More on Chandler though, who has just been fantastic. Courtesy of Doug's Stats, here are his numbers over the past 10 games:
He has been a consistent rebounder for the team, and was as much of a part of that Wolves game as Gordon. I think it would serve Paxson wise to start negotiating a contract extension soon. Tyson wants to be here, and wants to win. He's young, big, and if the team acts fast, he can be had cheap. Even if his game merely stays the course that will be a huge asset for the future. If he ever gets some hands, the rest of his game could round out as well. I know Pax wants to hold off until the new CBA is negotiated, or maybe still is thinking of using Chandler in a trade while his value is gaining steam. But that could turn out to be a mistake.
I'll be at the UC for Monday night's game against Dallas. I'm not expecting a victory, but it would be nice to see some momentum carried over from a win. And I'm really up for seeing a lot of Tyson Chandler and Ben Gordon.