Hey! We've got March Madness here at the United Center.
Hey! Hey! Look at the Bulls, please.
Eddy Curry, were looking good Saturday night in opening a big early lead on the Indiana Pacers. Curry was having one of his rare monster games.
By the end of the first quarter, Curry was threatening his career-high game of 31 points. He had 18 in the first quarter in taking the Bulls out to a quick double-digit lead.
Curry finished with a season-high 27 points, though none in the fourth quarter, as the Bulls went on to win 100-96. The Bulls moved to 37-31, a season-high six games over .500 and a half-game behind Washington for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
It all may have been lost in Illinois' thrilling comeback victory in Rosemont to advance to the NCAA Final Four. But Curry, who could have been a senior in college this season instead of a multimillionaire, was just as exciting. Just Curry's luck to be at his best when hardly anyone was watching.
But Curry got the attention of the Pacers with arguably the best quarter of his pro career.
The Bulls, as they usually do, threw it in to Curry to open the game. Curry usually has most of his success in the first quarter, though not like this.
He spun and lunged and stuck the landings like he did when he was a youth gymnast, hitting all six of his first-quarter shots and 6 of 7 from the free-throw line for 18 first-quarter points.
It left the Pacers trailing by 12 points midway through the first quarter. Stephen Jackson attempted to match Curry from the perimeter and scored 11 of his game-high 34 in the opening quarter as the Bulls led by 10.
The Bulls maintained the lead through the second quarter as Jackson tried to match the Bulls and had 20 at halftime against Curry's 22.
Curiously, Reggie Miller, after being fouled by Jannero Pargo, apparently said something to referee Blaine Reichelt and was ejected with his second technical foul of the game with 3 minutes 8 seconds left in the half and the Bulls leading 45-36.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle also was thrown out, resulting in three Ben Gordon free throws and then a Curry dunk and three-point play that gave the Bulls a 51-36 lead. The Pacers, having finished their game in Detroit close to midnight Friday because it was delayed by a bomb scare, may have been a little cranky from lack of sleep. Dale Davis also was called for a technical foul in the fourth quarter with the Bulls ahead by 10 and about eight minutes left.
The Pacers closed within 10 at halftime and then, even without Miller, came out shooting and closed within 57-54 early in the third quarter and headed into the fourth quarter trailing 75-68.
Gordon finished with 20 points, Othella Harrington 14.
There is a form of collegiate March Madness watching the Bulls.
They are young. They play with enthusiasm and effort, rarely taking a possession off. Perhaps come playoff time teams will match that, but few do during the regular season, and the Bulls have taken advantage. It's a little like watching a college teambut with much better talent.
"They are a hard-working, defensive-oriented team," Carlisle said of the Bulls. "They changed the culture here in a year, which is very hard to do. You have to play very hard to have a chance against them. They're very good. Scott [Skiles] is going to get major consideration for coach of the year and he should. They deserve a lot of credit."
Bulls 100, Pacers 96