The short-handed Bulls have about had it with the little-engine-that-could, grittiness talk. "We're not satisfied with being .500," Joakim Noah said. "We want more." After Sunday's 92-86 defeat of the even more short-handed Lakers, the Bulls flew home with a 3-3 trip and a 25-25 record in their rearview mirror. Top to bottom, as far as an organization that has won six championships is concerned, save the platitudes of perseverance for others. "I don't want anyone to define who we are other than us," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I think there's room for growth. We can do a lot better. I love the fighting spirit of our team." On a day the Bulls dressed nine healthy bodies, that spirit manifested itself in the form of Noah's 20 points, 13 rebounds and ability to navigate the game's final minutes with five fouls. It showed in Taj Gibson starting for the injured Carlos Boozer and scoring 12 of his 18 points in the first 7 minutes, 21 seconds. "He set the tone for us in the post," Noah said. "We wanted to throw the first punch." That spirit was on display in Kirk Hinrich's second straight dominant first quarter, which featured seven of his 17 points and three of his five assists. The Bulls tied their season high with 34 first-quarter points in leading by as many as 13 early. And the Bulls' mindset showed again as they let a 19-point lead lapse into anxious moments down the stretch. Up four, D.J. Augustin missed a jumper. But he sprinted back and stole a pass by Steve Blake, then iced the victory with free throws. "Huge," Thibodeau said. "The game's on the line. It's a big, multiple effort play." The Bulls had enough of those to take advantage of a Lakers team without its top four scorers, which also lost Steve Nash to a knee injury in the third quarter. Chris Kaman's 27 points led three reserves in double figures as the Lakers' starters managed just 24 points. The Bulls prevailed despite shooting just 42.5 percent.
Bulls finish trip with win, set their sights high
Chicago Tribune | Feb 10