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Friday, February 23

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Bulls in Five - It's a Start
by Jason Maslanka

It's time to start looking at things in a positive light. If the Bulls didn't have a losing record to start with, this last week or so would be a time filled with a few tough losses and some good wins. No one would be too upset about it. With a last place team, you need a win every time on the court and it's tough to accept anything else. In all reality, however, after ending the losing streak January 6th at Milwaukee, the Bulls have won five and lost four. Of those four, none of the losses were by more than six, and only the Minnesota game was lost by more than three. Coming off a thrashing of the Pacers, things are looking up at the United Center.

One: Wednesday, Bulls 106 New York 104 (OT)
It's been said before, but there's nothing better than beating Eddy Curry, Jamal Crawford and the Knicks. Curry played only 25 minutes before fouling out, scoring 11 and reminding Bulls' fans why they're better off without him. A giant man? Yes. A terrific high school prospect? Yes. A player who should be a top center in the east? Again, yes. A good NBA player? Nope. He probably won't ever be. He's injury-prone, soft and doesn't know how to play the game. This game, itself, saw Chris Duhon get ejected after a ridiculous cheap shot from Maurice Taylor, a terrific back and forth battle, clutch shooting, and Ben Gordon's coming out party. In overtime, with his Knicks down three, Crawford hit a three from about 27 feet to knot up the game. With four seconds left, Gordon did him one better, knocking down a long jumper as time expired to give the Bulls the win.

Two: Antonio Should've Bought a Ticket
Unless you live in a cave, you undoubtedly know that none of Curry's mediocrity, Crawford's clutch shot or Gordon's 32 points was the story of Wednesday's game. As I mentioned in Merge earlier this week, late in the game, former Bull Antonio Davis jumped the scorer's table and went into the stands to defend his wife, Kenra Davis, whom he felt was being harassed by an intoxicated fan. Talk about the overreaction of the century — Davis needs to learn that NBA arenas have about a million security officers working every corner of the arena, including the end of both benches. Simply letting one of them know should've done the trick of "protecting" his wife. My doubt stems from the 8,000 replays I've seen of the situation and how it appears that it may have been the fan who needed protection from Kendra Davis instead. Replays show Davis walking over to the fan, pointing her finger in his face repeatedly, while also showing the fan motion for security. I have no doubt that the fan used course language when pleading with Davis to sit down during the game, but it was Davis who physically confronted the fan and made the situation more intense than it needed to be. All parties involved need to learn a lesson on utilizing security. Luckily, no one was harmed. Davis was suspended five games by the NBA.

Threeeeee: Friday, Houston 109 Bulls 108 (2OT)
Friday marked the return of the Rockets' All-Star Forward Tracy McGrady to the lineup. Previously, Houston had not won a game this year without McGrady, and he was a game-time decision for the team. In typical Bulls' luck, McGrady was able to go and score a game-high 35 points. Coupled with Juwan Howard's 50 minutes and 30 points, the Rockets were too much for a Bulls team that surrendered an eight-point halftime lead. Luol Deng led six players in double-figure scoring with 19 points. Down one nearing the end of the second overtime, Hinrich had a chance to play hero this game, but missed a driving layup as time expired. This game also marked the Bulls debut of Oklahoma State star Stephen Graham, who was given a 10-day contract after impressive work in the NBDL. Graham is the brother of the Toronto Raptor's Joey Graham. Stehepen Graham is known as a dynamite outside shooter. Eddie Basden was reassigned to the NBDL.

Four: Saturday, Bulls 101 Indiana 89
Do your eyes deceive? Is that a blowout? Well, yes, it is, and it's the most encouraging game I've seen from the Bulls all year. Playing a talented Pacers team, the Bulls took it to Indiana in the third quarter, outscoring them 25-13 en route to the big victory. The third quarter, which normally acts as the terrible letdown quarter for the Bulls, was their key to victory in this one. Andres Nocioni led the Bulls off the bench with 20 points, including clutch runners in the fourth quarter to help protect against the surging Pacers. The two stories of the game were Tyson Chandler playing quality basketball and the DNP - CD next to Michael Sweetney's name in the boxscore. Sweetney did not play one minute in the game, and it had nothing to do with injury, but everything to do with Scott Skiles. Skiles was visibly displeased with Sweetney during the Rockets game and didn't call his name during the big win. Sweetney has found himself confused on defense lately, and had no luck finishing the easy layup inside. Sweetney is still a valuable member of this team, but if he can't use his frame to get some easy points and guard the paint, he becomes an lesser-paid version of Tyson Chandler. That is, the Chandler before Saturday...

Five: I'll Take that for 60 Million Dollars, Please
The Pacers game marked the best game Chandler has played since I can remember. Under much malaise from fans, coaches and the media, Chandler did what he's paid to do, scoring 15 points on 7-9 shooting and pulling down 14 rebounds, eight offensive. Even more exciting than the offensive stats was Chandler playing 36 minutes and not fouling out of the game. My belief is that Chandler's miserable play is the number one reason for the Bulls lack of success this year. It's no coincidence that Chandler starting the game instead of Sweetney, playing quality minutes and a double-double resulted in a big Bulls' win. No one expects eight offensive rebounds a game, but 10 points and 10 rebounds should be the norm, not the best game of the year.

Standings Update: The Bulls (17-23) remain 1.5 Games Behind Washington (18-21) for the eighth playoff spot.

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About the Author(s)

Jason Maslanka began his fandom of the Chicago Bulls in June of 1991, conveniently coinciding with the franchise's first championship. The years since the championships tested his fandom, but it never faltered. He believes that the NBA is more than dunks and hip hop, and that the NBA dress code is a good thing. He thinks most fans don't really understand basketball, and if they did, they'd love it even more. He knows that there are certain players who do the little things for no praise, and stat-mongers who don't really do anything to help their team win. Every week, he plans to execute a beautifully crafted column containing five points you should be thinking about and discussing as a Bulls and NBA fan. Send comments, questions, and arguments to

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