Wow, what a night at the United Center, packed and ready for the Eastern Conference leader Miami Heat. In the Bulls' first possession Curry had a shot swatted back at him by Shaq, and it looked like the Bulls could be in for a long night. But soon after Shaq was clutching his knee after stepping on a fallen Othella Harrington, and would not return that night.
I didn't take joy into seeing Shaq leave the game, but then again you knew that this would be a whole new setting with him out. The Bulls didn't play particularly well, and at one point in the 4th quarter I had written them off. Ben Gordon came into the game with about 5 minutes left, and hit a shot but soon missed a layup, which had me thinking that maybe its too much to count on Ben to bail out the Bulls every time out.
But it seemed like he didn't miss a shot the rest of the night. Ben finished with 29 points, 6-9 from 3 and lead the Bulls to a 105-101 victory in overtime. Gordon had 20 points in the 4th and extra period, and Tyson Chandler chipped in with some big defensive stops and rebounds on the other end. Solid albeit unspectacular play all-around, with Gordon once again being the hero. (and if not for Ben, I'd probably be talking about the game Wang Zhi-Zhi had)
Recap here, box score here. Bright spots tonight include Harrington's rebounding in the first half, and Curry chipping in a quiet 16 before Skiles went away from him and stuck with the 3-guard lineup that closed out the game. One of those 3 guards, Kirk Hinrich, had perhaps his worst night of the season, shooting 4-19 and perhaps still feeling the effects of his hand injury. Gordon shows no signs of slowing down, but its too much pressure on the rookie to be expected to continually bail out the team. They still need Hinrich healthy and shooting well.
Bottom line, the Bulls are now 5-3 in a month where they were to struggle, and winning a game against the Heat without Shaq can be considered stealing, but judging by the reaction at the UC tonight, nobody felt too guilty about it.
The Bulls travel to Cleveland tomorrow, so the road isn't getting any easier...