Highest plus/minus: Antonio Daniels (+17).
Lowest plus/minus: Andray Blatche and DeShawn Stevenson (-14).
From the sounds of it, you guys all shared the same thought I had. What the hell did happen in that third quarter?
I think there were a couple keys. First, before getting thrown out, DeShawn Stevenson was having his second miserable game in a row after the unbelievable performance against the Hornets. There was something about his play that seemed to be draining the team, whether it was with his lethargic offense, his defense, or his general attitude. I'm not going to go as far as saying he was why we were losing, but he wasn't helping.
His absence meant we needed to start the second half with Roger Mason and Antonio Daniels in the lineup together. This was key, because Mason spaced the floor and took advantage of some lazy perimeter defense by the Bulls. Mason has been in a major slump since the start of the new year, but this was one of those games where you see how he can help. Credit Eddie Jordan for sticking with him when he had the hot hand.
The other key was the Songaila/Blatche lineup switch. Songaila has really proven his worth over the past week, and he was outstanding last night, particularly in the third quarter. He delivered a number of nice passes, hit a couple jumpers, and played surprisingly good defense. Meanwhile, Blatche was really active in the second quarter, and was possibly the only guy playing ball during that stretch. I must say, even though I'm not really in favor of Songaila playing more minutes, as long as the breakdown of minutes is like tonight (31 minutes for Songaila, 26 for Blatche), I'm happy.
We also got a break with some really bad Bulls coaching. After we broke out strong in the third quarter, Jim Boylan decided to pull Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah, his two young big men, instead of the guards that were allowing so many open shots. Larry Hughes remained in the game through the entire third quarter, even as Mason was having his way with him. Then, in the fourth quarter, Boylan was playing a tiny lineup, and thanks to Brendan Haywood, we completely took advantage. Also, 27 minutes for Ben Gordon? Huh? I can see why Bulls fans are so frustrated with their team.
But let's not take anything away from our comeback effort. Mason and Songaila have played really poorly at stretches during the game, but they've definitely picked things up after the injuries. If we want to make something of this season, we need that to continue.