Going small gets Bulls a big win at Golden State


Nov 22

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

I’m glad coach Vinny took my advice about playing small and having five guys out there who could make an impact against the Golden State Warriors Friday. Now on to the economy and health care.

I know, I know. The Warriors aren’t your everyday NBA team to go inside/outside, try to dominate you on the boards and play physically. They won’t win a championship and a Nelson team never really has gotten close. Though he hasn’t exactly had Michael, Magic, Larry, Kareem, Tim, Shaq or Kobe. What makes Nelson special as a coach and his teams always competitive is that he uses what he has and tries to put them in the best position to succeed no matter what anyone thinks.

So everyone thinks you need a seven footer at center and more size next to him and a big man post presence.

If you don’t have it, you don’t keep putting big people in there who don’t, won’t or can’t impact the game.

The Bulls finally didn’t Friday, and it resulted in a nice 115-110 victory over the Warriors.

“I thought the Bulls did a good job, matched up with us at the beginning of the game,” said Warriors coach Don Nelson. “We did a marvelous job the first half with (Derrick) Rose and he figured it out in the second half and showed why he’s the number one pick in the draft. We’re big Rose fans here, love to watch him play, love to watch him as he gets better in games. Wow. Second half he put on a show. An incredibly talented point guard. He’s right up there with the best of them, in a short period of time”

Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro finally stuck with the players who could contribute the most, especially Rose, who was absolutely brilliant and took over the game until a potentially career threatening hip bruise (anytime he falls down we fear that) with just over a minute left and the Bulls leading 111-106. It doesn’t appear to be that serious as Rose left the court with an ice pack held to his rib cage after being kicked by Corey Maggette on a drive.

“I should be alright, it stung a little bit at that time, but I am better now,” Rose told reporters after the game and said he’d play Sunday in Denver.

Del Negro said Rose could have returned if necessary, though Del Negro has more faith than I do as the Warriors looked sure to cut it to one with 10.3 seconds left before impressive looking rookie Anthony Randolph missed on a wide open drive that should have been a dunk.

“We really needed this one tonight,” said Rose, who had 25 points on 12 of 19 shooting with five assists but five turnovers, most early. “We thought that we could come in here and compete against them, and that is what we did. I have to shoot, and that is what I did. I stopped thinking about stuff and started reacting. I know I can hit the shots they were giving me. My teammates want me to shoot the ball, and that is what I did.”

So the Bulls, 6-7, held on and made a nice statement coming back from their 375-point loss in Portland Wednesday. C’mon, it felt like that, didn’t it?

The Bulls played hard, harder than the Warriors, who kept talking about the lift they’ll get from Friday’s trade for Jamal Crawford. We’ll keep quiet about that and let them find out. If Nelson thinks they don’t defend now…

The Bulls shot 51.1 percent—yes it helps when the shots from a jump shooting team go in—scored a season high in points, and were led by one time Warrior Larry Hughes with 26 points and five of five three pointers.

But perhaps what was most encouraging was their competition level after the brutal loss in Portland and Del Negro sticking with his best athletes and performers. Joakim Noah didn’t play, and it’s a game he should have against Andris Biedrins. But perhaps it was a message to finally get in shape. Aaron Gray didn’t play, and it was too quick a game for him. Tyrus Thomas was in occasionally, and mostly laid off his jump shot with three shots and seven points in 17 minutes.

“For us to bounce back the way we did after last couple of games I’m real happy for the guys,” said Del Negro.

Luol Deng was out again with his sore hamstring, and Thabo Sefolosha with a dozen points got the start along with Rose, Ben Gordon, Hughes and Drew Gooden. In effect, a four-guard, sort-of-a-center lineup that matches what Golden State does. The Bulls were better at that game this time.

Yes, the Lakers and Portland are big, and you probably don’t get away with it against Yao Ming. But there aren’t that many dominant big men in the NBA these days, especially in the East, and Gooden does a reasonably good job keeping big guys off balance, as he did earlier this season against Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemire before hurting his ankle.

Gooden, a native of Oakland, was terrific with 18 points and 16 rebounds, eight offensive in an active performance.

“We just wanted to win,” said Gooden. “We didn’t want two bad losses on this road trip. We figured that this is a must win tonight. Even though we made a lot of mistakes, we are on the road, and we have to understand to value the basketball (17 turnovers, 10 from Rose and Gordon combined, four from Rose in his ugly first half), and take good shots. Derrick Rose was a big key factor in this game tonight. We can’t exclude him. He was the one who picked us up in the second half after having a bad first half, and went out there and got a victory for us.”

Translation: Give the kid the ball and don’t freeze him out. Stop taking those quick shots and use a screen on occasion. Perhaps we should have some more weak side action on offense. Work at it and you never know what will happen. Drew Gooden, leader? Sorry, not with that facial hair.

But Denver, the next opponent on this trip, won’t beat you going big and Utah’s biggest player, Mehmet Okur, plays mostly outside and Carlos Boozer is about the size of Gooden and an awful defender. Come to play and it makes up for all kinds of deficits. The 76ers are bigger. Fine. Let them go to Samuel Dalembert all they want. I’d have Ben Gordon guard him. Nothing messes up an offense, I believe, like being sucked into matchups you don’t prefer but appear to favor you. It’s always been one of Nelson’s great strengths.

Nelson’s weakness Friday, or at least his team’s, was he didn’t have the best player on the floor.

That was Rose, though certainly not in the first half when you had to be pulling for Del Negro to get Rose off the floor. It was an awful performance to begin, though the Bulls remained in the shootout with the Warriors thanks to the shooting of Hughes and Sefolosha.

So who had them in the pregame pool for best first half?

 Sefolosha also did a nice job defending in a game in which it wasn’t a high priority, knocking some balls loose to get the Bulls on the break. The Warriors were good in the first half trapping Rose and collapsing on him and also sending help on Gordon with long armed players Gordon couldn’t see past. Handling the ball on the top of the floor in the last six minutes of the second quarter, Gordon was a basket case in dribbling off his foot out of bounds against no pressure, going behind his back and losing the ball.

Lindsey Hunter actually started the second quarter and scored some big baskets as Rose forced himself into defenders for offensive fouls and committed some bad fouls while also being blown by while trying to play defense. Perimeter defense has been Rose’s one issue this season. It’s as ordinary as he’s looked this season.

That would change dramatically, as we’ve come to expect.

By the way, do you have to be out of basketball five years to get into the Hall of Fame or can they put you in during your rookie season. Sometimes we make it sound that way.

 But this time there was Hughes with weak side help on defense and Gooden flying around the court. The Bulls went into the second half trailing 59-57 after a Hunter three. Yes, Lindsey Hunter with 10 points.

It was your classic back-and-forth game, which makes for nice entertainment, and also suggests two teams, which they a
re, that merely hope to ma
ke the playoffs and have about the same levels of talent.

Rose came out after that one of three shooting first half with a hard drive for a three-point play followed by a pullup jumper. Sefolosha showed a nice show-and-go with the ball, Hughes, which he can do though not consistently, was firing in three balls after coming into the game with one this season, and after a Warriors turnover with the Bulls up 77-76, Rose missed on a run out but Gordon and Hughes were running as well while the Warriors weren’t and Gordon got the easy basket.

That kind of play was a vast departure from the games against the Lakers and Trailblazers.

The Warriors put Gordon in pick-and-rolls three straight times and Stephen Jackson scored six straight in the kind of mismatches you can get caught in with small lineups. But I’m glad Del Negro didn’t cave in and resort to bigger players who haven’t scored or played much defense this season, but basically just been tall.

Rose had 11 in the third quarter, and was just beginning. There’d be another dozen in the fourth.

His fourth quarter was a thing of beauty.

The Warriors got a nice lift from Randolph, whom some scouts said before the draft could end up one of the top three rookies of this class within five years. He’s an impressively versatile athlete who had a brilliant block on a Hughes breakaway that looked like it would cinch the game with 1:15 left and the Bulls ahead by five as Randolph also got Rose earlier in the game.

But there was no denying Rose late. Jackson, with 32 but eight of the Warriors 15 turnovers trying to run an offense with no true point guard playing, and Maggette with 24, began to cool off and the immortal Anthony Morrow, who had 62 in his first two pro starts from nowhere, was just two of nine. The Bulls had the real kid.

Rose hit a pull up for a 98-93 lead after a clever lefty drive by Hunter and then a second three by Hunter, of all things, as Hunter was paired with Rose the first part of the fourth quarter. Small was big this time.

Rose’s drive through three Warriors and slam dunk with about five minutes left was the oooh and aaah of the game. Yeah, the Bulls still shot too many times without much movement as Hughes missed badly on a jumper with the Bulls ahead 105-100, but then Rose took the ball left off a screen and hit a jumper from the elbow and kept the Bulls up by five a few minutes later going left again for a pull up and then with a driving bank shot as Rose made the Bulls last four baskets and even showed a rare puckish side with a finger to his lips as he was a crowd silencer.

“Rose is good.  Oh man,” said Jackson.  “For a young guy at that age, a rookie to come in here and take over that game like that, regardless of who he’s playing, that’s real impressive.  He didn’t buckle under pressure. He stayed solid.  I’m definitely a Derrick Rose fan now.  I will have one of his jersey’s up in my house.”

Rose went down with 1:13 left, but Randolph missed that finger rolling potential slam and the Bulls hit free throws to walk away with their heads up this time.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: