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Slow start, fantastic finish

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Bulls guard Derrick Rose soars toward the basket in the second quarter Wednesday against the Suns.


PHOENIX -- About an hour before the Bulls played the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at US Airways Center, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was asked about the status of forward Taj Gibson.

Thibodeau said Gibson -- who missed practice Sunday and Monday with a pinched nerve on the outside of his right foot -- was showing no ill effects after playing 40 minutes the previous night against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Gibson's foot may have been fine, but his right ankle wasn't. About a half hour after Thibodeau spoke with the media, Gibson was a late scratch with the ankle injury.

At least Gibson got to watch a thriller as the Bulls rallied from an early 23-point deficit before winning 123-115 in double overtime.

Derrick Rose, who fouled out in the second overtime, led the Bulls with 35 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Grant Hill paced the Suns with 25 points.

Against the smallish Suns, Thibodeau decided to go small, inserting Ronnie Brewer into the lineup at small forward with Luol Deng shifting to power forward.

That lineup may have made sense on paper, but it didn't work out well for the Bulls at the start -- and you can be sure Thibodeau won't be featuring it any time soon.

To put it mildly, the start of the game couldn't have been much worse for the Bulls. They were late arriving at the arena because of a walkthrough at the team hotel -- and they were late arriving (at least mentally) for the game.

Rose appeared to score the Bulls' first basket with a three-pointer as the shot clock was running out, but that basket was taken away during the first timeout when the officiating crew ruled that he didn't get the shot off in time.

With that basket off the board, the Bulls were down 29-8 less than nine minutes into the game. The Suns' biggest lead was 36-13.

Phoenix featured a collapsing defense to prevent Rose from driving to the basket, and no one could hit a perimeter jumper to exploit the weakness of that defensive scheme.

The Suns were up 36-17 at the end of the first quarter, and things weren't much better at the start of the second quarter, but the Bulls rallied to trim the deficit to 62-50 at halftime.

Deng and Kyle Korver started hitting shots, and seldom-used James Johnson came off the bench to provide energy and a lift on both ends of the court.

Johnson had seven points (3-for-3 shooting), four rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 10½ minutes in the first half. He finished with 12 points.

At the start of the second half, the Bulls were within eight points less than two minutes into the third quarter, but the Suns quickly pushed the lead back up to 18 points midway through the quarter.

The Suns had an 84-72 lead at the end of three quarters.

JOHN JACKSON

ON THE BULLS

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