For two days, Bill Cartwright has answered questions patiently about his hold on his victory-starved Bulls.
The coach, as he did again Monday, steadfastly insists that he hasn't lost his team.
Talk is cheap. Ultimately, all coaches are judged by their won-lost record, their ability to develop players and how hard their teams play.
If Monday's effort is an indication, Cartwright is right.
Playing team basketball and doing so with energy, the Bulls hung on to edge Phoenix 90-87 before 17,057 at the United Center. The Bulls snapped a three-game skid and won for just the third time in 14 games.
They did so by placing five players in double figures, led by Jalen Rose's 21 points. They did so by sharing the basketballRose posted the first triple-double of his career by adding a career-high 14 rebounds and 11 assistsand working from the inside out.
They did so after resorting to the starting lineup that went 4-11 over this season's first 15 games, replacing a hobbled Donyell Marshall with Eddy Curry and an injured Eddie Robinson with Trenton Hassell.
Perhaps most importantly, they did so with a stronger defensive presence.
In a seesaw game, Phoenix stormed back from an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit.
With the Suns trailing 85-82, Amare Stoudemire scored on a follow of his own miss and was awarded a free throw on a questionable foul call on Jamal Crawford with 13.4 seconds left. But Stoudemire, who had 19 points and nine rebounds, missed the free throws, and Rose followed with two of his own with 10.7 seconds left.
Shawn Marion's three-point attempt with six seconds to play rimmed out, and Rose split another pair of free throws to make it 88-84.
Marion then swished a three-pointer with :01.2 to play. But Rose, who scored all of his points in the second half, followed with two more free throws and Stephon Marbury couldn't get a desperation three-pointer off in time.
Marbury shot 2-for-12 for Phoenix, which has lost four straight.
"We're not going to quit," said Marshall, who shook off a sore back to score 17. The Bulls trailed 45-37 at halftime but outscored Phoenix 31-13 in the third quarter, a problem area for three straight games. Rose scored 12 in the third quarter.
Rose didn't play poorly in the first half. He had seven rebounds and seven assists by halftime and reached his personal milestone on a dish to Crawford for a jumper with 7:06 remaining.
"Undoubtedly, his best game of the year," Cartwright said.
Foul trouble plagued both Curry and Tyson Chandler, the latter fouling out after yet another solid game with 15 points and six rebounds. Curry scored 13 points in just 16 minutes.
"We have guys sick. We have guys hurt," Cartwright said. "Those guys strapped it up and pushed themselves through it. That's beautiful."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times