Thursday, March 31, 2005

Case closed? (the sequel)

Soon I'm going to have to remove that question mark from the title. Ben Gordon did it again, albeit this time not with a rainbow three or a floater in the lane (although he did have a couple of those), but with a drive and a dish to Tyson Chandler, who was rolling to the basket and scoring (with a foul) with 2.8 seconds left in the game, putting the Bulls up 3 over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers after the free throw.

Sure a crazy Lebron James 3-pointer sent it to overtime (and why wasn't Nocioni in the game on that possession? He did a fantastic job guarding -and irritating- Lebron), but the Bulls had the momentum and carried it into the extra period, outscoring the Cavs 14-2 for a 102-90 victory. That's 8 in a row, the team's longest streak, and putting them at 9 games over .500, their high-water mark of the season.

Even without Eddy Curry, the Bulls had to look to the national TV audience like the better team down the stretch. Granted Cleveland is a poor road team, but the Bulls had big plays when they needed it, many of which were by Chandler on both ends of the court. He still has the most awkward offensive post moves I've ever seen, but it does work to draw fouls, and that's what he did on that final shot in regulation and in overtime.

Kirk Hinrich was not at 100%, but he did play tonight and chipped in with 13 points and 7 assists, good to see the captain back. Gordon didn't have the explosive 4th quarter that the announcers were hyping for (how many times did Harlan and Collins mention that he leads the league in 4th quarter scoring?), but he did lead the Bulls with 21 points. Tyson had 15 points to go with 14 rebounds.

The Bulls got through March better than expected, and a playoff seed is all but clinched. April is now all about getting healthy and moving up in the seedings. And maybe watching Ben Gordon finally erase all doubt that he is the rookie (and 6th man) of the year.