7:30 PM ET, January 2, 2007
United Center, Chicago, IL
CHICAGO (AP) -- Leandro Barbosa couldn't remember making a shot like this -- not in the NBA, anyway.
Ben Gordon scored 41 points in the Bulls' loss, six days after scoring 40 points against the Heat. What's the big deal, you wonder? Gordon didn't start either game. Over the last 30 seasons, only one other player, Brian Winters, recorded at least two 40-point games off the bench over his entire career. Gordon has done it twice in a week.
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"They [showed] a lot of confidence in me; this was my biggest shot since playing for Brazil," said Barbosa, a member of the Brazilian national team since 2002.
Ben Gordon gave the Bulls a 96-94 lead when he hit two free throws with 5.2 seconds left. The Suns decided to go for the win, and after a timeout, Diaw caught the inbound pass near the right block. Steve Nash set a pick on Gordon and Barbosa caught Diaw's pass near the top of the key and buried the winning shot.
"He went under the pick, so I had space to jump and shoot," Barbosa said.
It was a costly mistake by the Bulls.
"It was as simple as it gets," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "It relies on us falling for it and we did. We went inside the 3-point line instead of staying outside. We hustled back out, and they hit a good shot. It's a mistake we can't make right there."
Gordon said Barbosa deserves credit for making the basket.
"I went out and challenged him, but he made a hell of a shot," Gordon said.
It was a bitter ending for the Bulls, who got a career-high 41 points from Gordon and led by as many as 16 in the first half. Chicago, which had won 16 of 19 and had a chance to move into the Eastern Conference lead, was ahead by 10 going into the fourth quarter.
It was down to one -- 84-83 -- after Barbosa hit two foul shots with 3:33 left. Gordon, who scored the Bulls' final 12 points, made it 92-87 on a pair of free throws with 1:37 remaining. But Amare Stoudemire's basket and Diaw's 3-pointer tied it with 1:07 left.
Gordon then hit a jumper, but Stoudemire tied it again on a tip-in with 21.5 seconds left. Gordon got fouled by Nash on a jumper and hit both free throws before Barbosa answered.
"Yes, they are that good," Gordon said. "They're not 22-8 for no reason. They are a dynamic offensive team, and they just showed you what they can do in pressure situations."
Gordon missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer -- one that Barbosa tipped.
Barbosa finished with 20 points, while Stoudemire led the Suns with 24 points and 18 rebounds. Shawn Marion scored 22. Nash had 11 points and 13 assists.
"This was a tough fight for us," Stoudemire said. "The Bulls came out and played great basketball."
Gordon, who scored 40 against Miami on Dec. 27, was 13-of-25 from the field and 13-for-14 from the foul line. It was his ninth consecutive game with at least 20.
Luol Deng had another impressive outing, finishing with 19 points and eight rebounds after scoring a career-high 32 in Saturday's 103-96 win over Cleveland. He is averaging 25.3 points in three games since spraining his right wrist on a flagrant foul by Miami's James Posey.
The Bulls were 14-2 at home entering Tuesday's game, but the Suns figured to be their toughest test -- especially with Kirk Hinrich nursing a strained groin for the second straight game. And, after a rough first half, the Suns lived up to that billing.
Tuesday's game was the first with the old leather ball, and early on, the Suns looked like a team that might lobby to bring back the composite one the NBA used the first two months. Phoenix was 7-of-22 in the first quarter -- 0-for-5 on 3-pointers -- and hit 36-of-87 overall.
"This was a really difficult game for us," Nash said. "You have to give them a lot of credit. But we hung in there mentally. All of us were a little sloppy tonight."
The Bulls got going early, hitting 12 of 22 in the first quarter and building a 27-18 lead, and were 37-of-77 for the game. Gordon, making a case for his second NBA sixth man award, scored six in the period and 17 in the half.
"Obviously, we were lucky to win this one," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Our defense was good, and that's what helped, since we didn't shoot the ball good. In the second half, our guys got in defensively to them. That and [Barbosa's] big 3 at the end were the difference."
Phoenix has won five straight against the Bulls. ... Rookie Thabo Sefolosha started for Hinrich, who remains day-to-day, and finished with seven points, five rebounds, three assists and four turnovers. ... Phoenix's 18 points in the opening quarter and 43 in the first half tied season-lows.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||36-87 (.414)||37-77 (.481)|
|3PM-3PA||7-23 (.304)||4-12 (.333)|
|FTM-FTA||18-25 (.720)||18-22 (.818)|
|Fast Break Points||10||8|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||19 (0/0)||20 (0/0)|