Strutting on a tightrope

Fans don't come to Bulls games to see superstars; they don't have any.

They have a cast of characters, however, that lives on the edge, and there's something compelling about it.

These Bulls either are naive to play with such audacity against the NBA heavyweights or they are simply young, brash and bold. How about a little of both?

At a minimum, their games have been riveting because two have gone to overtime and two have been decided by one point, just like Wednesday night's 85-84 victory over Golden State.

Leave it to the Bulls to turn a sloppy game into a thriller.

Michael Sweetney, a player few Chicago fans knew about until the Bulls swapped Eddy Curry for him in early October, swished two free throws with 6.3 seconds left that held up for the victory and allowed the crowd of 19,723 to forgive 26 turnovers.

"It was hard to recognize my team for a while," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "Nevertheless, we won the game."

On the final possession, the Warriors' Jason Richardson, who had been close to unstoppable in four previous games, drove against Luol Deng but came up short with Tyson Chandler in his way. Richardson scored 15 points, a season low.

The Warriors had been content to launch from the perimeter most of the way, and who could blame them?

Although they weren't exceptional from three-point range in the first half, their midrange game gave them a 49-39 lead at intermission.

But the Bulls went the old-fashioned route, bumping and fighting for every basket. If nothing else, Sweetney's staying power down low is earning respect from teammates and opponents.

Sweetney is a heavy-set third-year player who doesn't know how slow he is.

"I'm a lot quicker than people think," he said in his typical reserved manner. "People look at me and think I'm not quick, and that's cool."

It's especially cool when you are rebounding almost every Golden State miss in the fourth quarter. Sweetney had nine rebounds plus his nine points.

If Sweetney gave the Bulls power down low, Hinrich gave them heart. Whether he fed Chandler for a monster slam or pulled up for a three-pointer, Hinrich kept chipping away at Golden State until he finished with 23 points, five rebounds, six assists and five turnovers.

"Luckily it was close tonight," Hinrich said. "We were on the bottom end of it most of the game. We were able to stick around and make plays, and we feel fortunate."

The Bulls spoiled Golden State's attempt to sweep a three-game trip for the first time since 1992. The Warriors were led by Baron Davis' 17 points.

Without a doubt, the Bulls earned a measure of respect from the Warriors, whom they'll play in Oakland on Monday night.

"We can't come in here like we did maybe three or four years ago, expecting to win," Davis said. "You have to give them credit for growing. It was just a matter of time before they all grew up."