If the Bulls ever had a valid excuse to feel exhausted, this was it.
Last stop on a six-game road trip, second straight night playing at a high altitude, most of the players either coming back from injuries or on a 40-minute pace.
Utah center Al Jefferson almost single-handedly took over Friday's game. He hit 8 straight shots and scored 12 straight points for the Jazz, a run spanning the third and fourth quarters and ending with Utah up by 4.
One player in position to rescue the Bulls was Carlos Boozer. He'd gotten in early foul trouble, so he was relatively fresh. He's also familiar with Energy Solutions Arena, which he called home during six seasons with the Jazz.
Boozer scored 11 of his 19 points in the final five minutes and produced all the points in a 7-0 run that lifted the Bulls from a 4-point deficit to 3-point lead with 59 seconds left. The Bulls held on to beat Utah 93-89 and salvage a 3-3 road trip.
"I got in foul trouble so early in the game," Boozer told reporters after the contest, according to espn.com. "So I was super fresh in the fourth quarter. I walked out there and I'm like, 'I'm not even tired right now, I got energy, my legs feel good,' and just try to give my team some juice."
It's tough to argue with the results, considering the six opponents on this trip were a combined 45 games over .500 as of Saturday morning. Utah had won 13 of its previous 18 games.
Probably the biggest trademark of this Derrick Rose Recovery season is anytime the Bulls (30-20) look like they're done, they'll dig up some inner reserve of energy and surprise everyone.
"We're all good dudes, we all want to win," Boozer said. "We put that above everything else and we're all committed to each other. We play for each other. At the end of the day, we're short-handed every game (without Rose)."
Nate Robinson helped send the Bulls out to a 12-point lead in the first half with some hot 3-point shooting.
"Like Thibs (coach Tom Thibodeau) says, 'You know your job and you go out and you do your job,'" Robinson said. "That's something coach harps on and that's something that guys really take to heart. We really try to do it to the best of our ability and have fun. As long as we have fun out there, I think we'll be OK."
The Bulls will play their first home game in two weeks Monday against San Antonio, then visit Boston before the all-star break arrives.
Noah's sore foot a concern:
In his second game back after missing three with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, Joakim Noah looked more like his usual self.
Noah had 12 points, 11 rebounds and 3 steals in 34 minutes against Utah. A day earlier, in the 32-point loss at Denver, he had 5 rebounds and 2 points in 23 minutes.
There is still plenty of reason to feel nervous, though. Plantar fasciitis sidelined Noah for nearly a month in the 2009-10 season. The best way to remedy it is with rest.
"There's really not that much you can do right now," Noah told reporters after the Utah game. "I just want to keep getting all the treatments and I want to be out there on the court for my teammates."
"It didn't get any worse from (Thursday). So we'll see how it feels and hopefully I'm all right."
Robinson doesn't want rest:
Derrick Rose is obviously getting closer to a return from ACL surgery, but it's still not clear if he'll be back after the all-star break, a week later or wait until early March.
Kirk Hinrich has now missed five games after having a procedure done on his right elbow. No word yet if he'll be ready Monday to guard San Antonio's Tony Parker, who's getting some MVP support.
In the meantime, Nate Robinson has taken on a heavy workload. While starting for Hinrich, Robinson has averaged 38.8 minutes in last five games. He played 46 in Utah, but got a breather with just 26 minutes in the blowout loss to Denver.
"I think I'm in the best shape of my life," Robinson told csnchicago.com. "I'm just giving it my all and pushing it to the limit, and it's been working for me. It's basketball, man. I've been playing -- college, I played a lot; high school, I rarely came out of the game -- so I'm used to playing.
"I played football. Football's one of the toughest sports to really be in condition. So for me, I'm just happy to be playing. It's a blessing. I just thank God for this opportunity."