Bulls beat 76ers to end 10-game losing streak


Mar 20

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Sure, there’s the numbers for Derrick Rose in Saturday’s Bulls 98-84 win—yes, finally after 10 consecutive losses—with a game high 23 points and a career best four three pointers in six attempts.

But the impact of the return of Rose, and to a lesser extent Joakim Noah in just nine minutes, lies well beyond the simple numbers.

Sorry, sabermetricians. Stay in baseball.

This is what happens when you bring in a star, or, conversely when you don’t have one.

The Bulls jumped on the dispirited 76ers immediately for a 21-17 first quarter lead as Rose, who was supposed to be only a mid range jump shooter, at best, effortlessly hit a pair of threes in the first quarter on the way to a dozen.

The Bulls began to stretch it out in the second quarter as Noah made his first appearance in almost a month. Hakim Warrick, who has come back to life and had 13 off the bench, had a highlight, in-your-face dunk on Samuel Dalembert and the Bulls were out to a rare big lead of late, 40-28, Warrick’s first of two slamma jammas like that on the night.

So there was Rose and now the defense, when the 76ers are captivated enough to offer some, was following Rose, Dalembert sliding off the screen to double.

Sure, you are supposed to get rotation and back side help, but it’s not easy. Brad Miller edged toward the basket, scored and was fouled for a three point play, the Bulls off to a 43-28 lead and leading by at least double digits the rest of the way.

It’s what you cannot measure in basketball. Sure, statistics and the new basketball indicators of player efficiency and trends are nice supplements. But the key to the game is to get great talent on the floor.

Which is why the Bulls’—and several other teams’—plans for free agency is so crucial. The effect of a star is vital in any sport. But it so changes the game in basketball, which was why the Bulls could look so bad for weeks, and then look so much better Saturday.

Because now Miller, who had 16 points, six rebounds and six assists, gets the lane and can drive as the defense drops off him. The defense cannot pressure on the perimeter as much, like when Rose felt the pressure of an overplay on top and released and went to the basket for a layup and 50-38 lead on a Kirk Hinrich pass.

There were perhaps a half dozen or more such plays where the defense followed Rose, which made someone’s shot easier, or a lane opened, like when James Johnson drove for a slam dunk as the defense now couldn’t collapse as much into the lane because the Bulls were finally hitting some threes.

These are some of the so called, little things, the unmeasurable intangibles you find when you have a star on the court.

(“Rose) had a pop to himself and because of that their team goes along with him,” said 76ers coach Eddie Jordan. “That is what the best players do so we just did not have it.”

And didn’t have one as Marreese Speights led the 76ers with 17 and Dalembert had 16. Andre Iguodala, who is supposed to the 76ers’ star, had another poor game with 11 points on three of 11 shooting, mostly long jumpers. There’s been this long debate as the Bulls when they chose Luol Deng were weighing between Deng and Iguodala, the athlete or the technician. Iguodala didn’t shoot any threes Saturday as he’s missed 25 of his last 26 three point attempts and is leading the 76ers to oblivion this season.

Hinrich finished with 17 points and 11 assists and a bad jump shooting Bulls team for weeks had 29 assists on 36 field goals.

Rose was wary of his sore wrist, you could tell, as he passed on an open court dunk on a fast break pass from Flip Murray midway through the third as the Bulls rolled to a 63-44 lead.

The 76ers made a bit of a run there, though in going a don’t-care one of 17 on threes they had little interest in the game. They pulled within 64-52 as the Bulls forced a few jumpers. But Murray, who’d been guilty of that as well and more in recent games, went hard to the basket to score to stop the run and Rose followed with still another three.

It was a revelation, of sorts, to see Rose casually draining the threes. He’d come into the NBA with something of a bogus reputation of a non shooter, though his stroke was good right away so you knew he could shoot. He worked hard on his shot last summer and came back with  a terrific elbow jumper.

So could he stretch the court? A  few years, for sure, everyone said. So, apparently, Rose sat out a week with a sore left wrist, which meant he could shoot. And he came back with a three point game.  

People ask me what he does and all I can find out is basketball.

Rose hadn’t made more than one three in a game this season and was six of 27 on the season. Last season, Rose was 16 of 72 on threes for 22 percent, the same as his percentage for this season before Saturday.

“It just feels good to be back with my team,” said Rose. “They were giving me shots basically.  I am just going to start taking them. I have worked on my shot so much it’s crazy.  So right now I am just going to start taking them.”

The Bulls got out for 22 fast break points and held a team under 90 points for the first time in more than a month and just the second time since that impressive road trip back in January.

And the Bulls finally have some fans to match the TNT guys who have them out of the playoffs as the NBA-TV guys, Brent Barry, in my view one of the smartest analysts on TV, and Eric Snow, predicted the Bulls will jump the Raptors to get in. Yes, we’ll see how smart, eh?

I have my doubts.

Still, the Bulls inched up to 32-37, though remained two and a half games in ninth with the Raptors winning in New Jersey.

But, finally, with a win, the first in March, perhaps an omen on the vernal equinox when there is exactly the same hours of day and night. That’s .500, and if the Bulls could get there on the season they should make the playoffs.

“You have to start with one to get to two,” said Del Negro.  “We got the one tonight on the road, which is always tough. I don’t care where you are at.  I was hoping Joakim could play more minutes by this time and I was hoping Luol (Deng, likely out for the season with a calf injury) could be back. But it is not working out this way, so we are just going to build on what Joakim did tonight and see how he feels tomorrow.  But obviously it is a nice win for us after the way we struggled with everything we had to deal with.”
“It feels like three years (since we won),” said Del Negro.  “You try to find ways to win. But I have always said it: You have to have the players and Derrick (made) a difference in the game and Joakim had a presence in the game and that helps your rotation and your minutes for other guys and keeps guys fresher. All those things have an effect on if you win games.”

Noah played just over nine minutes, but ran the court aggressively and had seven points and four rebounds and forced the action for eight free throws.

“I feel I played a little rusty,” said Noah.  “It felt great to get on the court.  I feel like we came out with an edge and I think overall we played well.  It feels good to get a win. We haven’t had that in a long time.  We have to stay focused and stay on edge and see what happens.”

Hinrich began to get better looks and was seven of 15 shooting, and Rose was back.

It made all the difference. Once again, there’s a chance.

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