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Not a Rosy Night
by Sam Smith
Posted on Nov 12
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.
Uh oh. Uh, uh, uh, uh, oh.
Yeah, Ben Gordon was in one of those never-met-a-shot-he-didn’t-like modes, and Joakim Noah played college teammate Al Horford like Horford was Usain Bolt in the Olympics and Noah was running 10th. Tyrus Thomas was firing them up in one of his one-fer shooting nights while Luol Deng was yelling at him for falling for a pump fake from Zaza Pachulia. The Bulls gave up a season high 113 points, including a career high 27 points to Horford, who also added 17 rebounds and six blocks. Hey! Anyone got that guy?
As bad as all that was, and it was bad as the Hawks without Josh Smith went to 6-0 while the Bulls fell to 3-5, it was way worse.
Because Bulls rookie star Derrick Rose got hurt.
Rose was brilliant, getting 26 points to match his young career high with a career high 10 rebounds and six assists. This all after he pulled a muscle in his back in the first quarter, refused to leave the game and ended up playing 42 minutes and 29 seconds.
"I’m fine," Rose said as he left the United Center late Tuesday night with friends and family.
But he clearly wasn’t, and it seems unlikely he’ll practice Wednesday as he gets treatment. I assume seeing him so far he’ll play Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks. But you don’t want to mess with back injuries and Rose admitted to being stiff coming into the game and was getting treatment.
Teammates said Rose, who was one of four Bulls along with Gordon, Deng and Andres Nocioni announced for the All Star ballot Tuesday, appeared to be in considerable pain during the game. Coach Vinny Del Negro said Rose was unable to sit in a chair during timeouts.
"He pulled a muscle in his back in the first quarter," said Del Negro. "I think he’ll be fine. His back tightened up a little. He wasn’t sitting during timeouts very often. He didn’t want to come out of the game. We were going to take him out of the game and he was like, ‘I’m fine.’
"He’s got a little bit of an issue there and we’re going to have to monitor that," said Del Negro."He’s going to battle hard and do what he can to give us a chance. That’s what he did tonight. It wasn’t enough."
Yes, the Bulls lost 113-108 in a game they were down two with eight minutes to go, but again fell to three pointers with Mike Bibby, with 22 points, hitting a pair after consecutive unforced Deng turnovers and the Bulls unable to regroup.
Deng, who followed those miscues with a hard drive for a basket and an offensive rebound on his own miss which led to a pair of free throws from Rose, blamed himself for the loss.
"We started to get back in the game in the fourth quarter, but then I made two big mistakes," Deng said. "I can’t make turnovers on back to back possessions. I was trying to be aggressive, but those are the kinds of mistakes that cost us the game. I’m down right now. But we have to continue to do things as a team to remain positive."
Deng had 19 points and 10 rebounds and was by no means responsible for the loss.
If fingers have to be pointed, it would have to be mostly at Thomas and Noah, who blew coverage after coverage by failing to get back in transition as Horford ran out for at least five breakaway dunks as the Hawks had 20 fast break points.
"Myself, I was a little sluggish out there," said Thomas, who was one of eight shooting and after starting didn’t play the last 18 minutes.
Noah, getting his first start of the season, did have eight rebounds, but just two points and was absolutely gushing about college teammate Horford.
"He played really well," said Noah. "He’s a great player. He hurt us a lot. His numbers were unbelievable. He’s a great player and not only is he a great player, but he’s a great guy, too. We couldn’t pick him up in transition for whatever reason. It was very impressive. Defensively, he hurt us as well, altering a lot of shots. He got a lot of blocked shots. He really controlled the game today and not only is he a great player, he’s a great guy, too."
Then asked about his own conditioning, Noah said: "I’m almost 100 percent. They hurt us in transition, especially Al Horford. His numbers are incredible. He really controlled the game. He’s a great player and a great guy."
Noah admitted the two didn’t talk during the game, and Horford was all over the floor. Friends say the two don’t get along very well and Horford seemingly wanted to make a statement.
Horford wasn’t about to get into anything, saying, "It was just another game. This was a place we hadn’t won in awhile (2004), so coming in it was huge to get a win for us. We knew they were a running team. Coach said run back at them and they weren’t getting back, so we were getting easy points."
So, yes, it was a brutal Bulls effort in many ways.
Gordon was eight of 20, and even he conceded his shot selection was bizarre.
"I didn’t really get any good looks," said Gordon, who started with Rose and had 19 points with Kirk Hinrich’s thumb surgery Tuesday, which the Bulls said was a success. "I think probably the major difference was the quality of shots. A couple of forced shots. My selection was probably not that good."
You’ve got to give Gordon that. He’s going to keep shooting. We know that. At least he knows they are bad shots. He didn’t say he’ll stop taking them.
There were some bright spots.
Andres Nocioni with 20 points continues to find the spacing with Rose, but is getting a bit disheartened.
"We lost control of the game," said Nocioni. "We knew before the game they run a lot. I don’t know why we didn’t figure that out during the game. We play well three, four minutes and after that make mistakes, turnovers, miss shots. We have some growing up to do. It’s like last year. This is not good. We need to grow up. (We have) young people, but we play in the NBA a long time. We need to find a way to step up and win this kind of game."
Though he didn’t start, Thabo Sefolosha finished and played his best game of the season, thwarting high scoring Joe Johnson for most of the game as Johnson was four of 16, but still ended with 17 points. His aggressive defense was one of the bright spots along with the inspired play of Rose.
Right now, I can’t see how Rose won’t be an East All Star this season. He’s on the ballot along with Michael Beasley and in the East among guards the only sure shots I see now are Johnson and Dwyane Wade. Ray Allen probably will get picked with the Celtics doing so well and likely a Pistons guard, either Allen Iverson or Richard Hamilton. With five guards, Rose should make it.
Though the Bulls most need him to make the next game and beyond.
Drew Gooden still was out with an ankle injury and could return Thursday, and Larry Hughes might be back shortly after from a dislocated shoulder.
But taking away Rose would leave the Bulls without their sweetest flower.
Yes, I’ve got many more silly Rose puns to go this season.
The rookie has just been remarkable. He got to the line nine times Tuesday and was making jumpers, four of at least 17 feet, demonstrating he can make jumpers, although his range isn’t out to three-point yet. He hits his free throws, eight of nine Tuesday. The kid can shoot, which was the only doubt. And he’s fearless, driving over Horford early in the game, as if to say, "I’m coming at you big guy. I’m not scared."
As quiet as Rose is, he has an unusual inner toughness.
He goes after every ball when the game is on the line. He can get lost some on defense, but even with 52 rebounds Tuesday, defense has not been a strength for this Bulls team. They allow too much penetration off the dribble and don’t recover to the three-point line very well.
That was evident with Maurice Evans hitting two big threes in the fourth quarter along with three by Bibby.
But there was Rose taking an outlet pass from Noah and throwing well ahead to Sefolosha who one handed a pass to a running Deng when the Bulls were still in it early in the fourth quarter and Rose taking a hard drive and putting it up with his left hand for a three-point play when the Bulls were fighting back late.
"Transition defense killed us," said Del Negro. "We’re not getting back."
With Hinrich gone for three months, if Rose is aching, going back may be where the Bulls are headed.
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.