MILWAUKEE -- If there are fans out there who still believe the Chicago Bulls are going to tank games this season in hopes of a better draft pick, or because the organization feels sorry for itself after Derrick Rose went down with another knee injury, they should go back and watch the last 90 seconds of Friday night's 91-90 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Many will focus on the fact that Mike Dunleavy banked home a 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left, but that would be a disservice to all the other plays that Tom Thibodeau's team had to make in order to finally get a little luck to go its way. How about the play Joakim Noah made to tie up Gary Neal with 16.2 seconds remaining that forced a jump ball after Jimmy Butler had just turned it over? Or the block the All-Star center made to close out the game? Or the three free throws Dunleavy made before his clutch 3?
There were so many times the Bulls, who came into this game having lost nine of their previous 11, could have simply rolled over and dropped another game, but they chose to fight back against a bad Bucks team that gave them every opportunity to get back into the game.
"You got to be able to take a punch in this league," Thibodeau said. "And you got to come right back and you've got to deliver one. I thought our team showed a lot of fight."
That is the characteristic that has defined this team under Thibodeau and the reason it will continue to play hard no matter the circumstance. The Bulls know their season isn't going to change after beating a lousy team, but they do think this game will help them get out of the emotional rut they've been in since Rose went down. After finding ways to lose games, the Bulls found a way to win this one.
"Dunleavy hit a huge shot," Noah said. "Even if it was off the glass. The basketball gods were with us. We feel like guys were hitting lucky shots against us; the last time we played against them, [John] Henson hit a lucky shot, so for us to hit a lucky one was big."
Dunleavy hit the kind of shot that every kid dreams about making when he grows up. In the process, he also gave a little hope to a Bulls team that has been in desperate need of it over the past month.
"It's great," Dunleavy said. "There's not a better feeling. Not a better feeling, especially the way things have gone kind of for us. Some tough losses on and off the court the last few weeks. We all knew how much we needed this one. We needed these last few, and it just seemed like it wasn't going our way tonight and we were able to prevail."
Now, the Bulls have to try and find a way to string some more wins together over the next week. They still have 61 games left to play, and they still must find a way to get their anemic offense going. But Friday night was another example of a team that refuses to just give up on another lost season. The Bulls might go down more often than usual this season -- but they won't go down without a fight.
"That's the thing about the team," Thibodeau said. "I've said it before. There's no quit in them. They're going to keep fighting ... they have great belief. I think you need to have that. Right now, we can't get comfortable. We've got to fight, scratch, endure and keep battling. If we do the right things, we're going to have a chance to win. Now as we start getting players back, I like our team. I like our team a lot."