Previous ArticlesThibodeau: Bulls missing their edge defensively
Rose’s dramatic tying three saves the day
by Sam Smith
Posted on Dec 5
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So who said he can’t make the big one?
Derrick Rose continued to add pages to his scrapbook of thrills Saturday with a straight away 25-footer as the regulation buzzer was sounding to save the Bulls from a third consecutive defeat. The Bulls, led by Rose’s 30 points and Carlos Boozer’s 25, went on to survive the Houston Rockets, 119-116 in overtime in the United Center.
“I think that was the first time I’ve celebrated this whole year after I shot a shot,” a determined Rose said after utterly willing the Bulls to this shaky come from ahead victory. “It felt good knowing that I’m capable of knocking down shots like that.”
It was a crucial and clutch shot, no question, as the Bulls looked like they’d blown a 14-point second half lead after they had to rally from five behind with 36.5 seconds left in what then seemed like an ugly trip back to .500.
But Rose, who’d been especially forceful all game and even in the pregame huddle after introductions was demanding a big game from teammates, got a big boost from Boozer in his first big game as a Bull with two big offensive rebounds and scores which set up Rose’s dramatics. The Bulls also got a littler lucky as both Kyle Lowry and Brad Miller split a pair of free throws in the last 24 seconds before the Bulls got the ball back with 10.7 seconds left trailing 109-106.
Joakim Noah, who had 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in dragging himself through just under 48 minutes of play, got stuck with the ball on the left wing at the three point circle looking for Rose. As the clock ticked down, the Bulls needed a three and the Houston play was to foul Noah hanging onto the ball with the Bulls experiencing still another miserable free throw shooting game and Noah one of two on the night.
“Derrick is definitely someone who wants the ball in pressure situations,” said Noah. “I think if I hadn’t given him the ball in that situation, he wouldn’t have talked to me for days.”
The Rockets, inexplicably, let Rose take a handoff going right toward the top of the circle, and Rose let fly with about a second left with three Rockets converging on him.
“It was hard to communicate that to them (to foul Rose),” said Houston coach Rick Adelman. “We didn’t foul him (when Rose first had it and passed to Noah) with seven to 10 seconds to go and it allowed him to pass it and then get the ball back. Give him credit. He made a really tough shot. However, letting them get two offense rebounds and missing a couple of free throws were also a part of it.”
The usually demure Rose was unusually pumped up and emotional after the game saving shot, but the Rockets, though 7-13, had plenty left and took a 112-111 lead in overtime on a Brad Miller three.
“Give Derrick Rose credit,” said Shane Battier. “He took a big three from about 38 feet under pressure and made it. He beat the odds tonight.”
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau went with Taj Gibson over Boozer for defense and had Ronnie Brewer in for Kyle Korver on offense/defense possessions, and Rose did just enough to hold off the Rockets with another three, his fourth of the game, and a brilliant hanging finger roll over Luis Scola for a 118-116 lead with 1:17 left in the first overtime.
“Rose made big time plays all night,” said Lowry.
Then it was up to the Bulls to make some defensive plays, as they finally did after falling victim constantly to the Rockets drive and kick and pick and roll game and Scola’s cleverness in the post.
Miller missed and Gibson got a tough rebound, and then after Rose missed a short fadeaway, Scola got Rose on a switch but fumbled the ball away and saved it to Miller, who rimmed out a shot and Brewer wrestled away a big rebound and was fouled. He made one of two as the Bulls as the Bulls made just six of their last 11 free throws.
But Miller, who had 20 points and four of nine threes in his return to Chicago, tried to get off another three and Gibson stayed strong, getting a piece and not falling for Miller’s upfake as the game ended and the Bulls survived to go to 10-8.
“Derrick Rose was terrific,” offered Thibodeau of the growing commonplace for the Bulls. “In the first half, he set the tone with his defense. He really competed hard. Derrick had a great edge today right from the start of the game. Each day he shows you more and more. That game was his will. It looked like we were going nowhere and he willed that win.”
It was a wonderfully entertaining game with eight lead changes and seven ties. After lacking-in-competition losses to the Magic and Celtics when they were outrebounded, outplayed and outed, actually, as something of a passive team, the Bulls reclaimed their vigor by outrebounding the Rockets 49-37 and running up a 26-15 margin in second chance points, 54-46 in points in the paint and 15-8 on the offensive boards.
Which also suggests as Rose was remarkable with a career high five steals, 11 assists and seven rebounds that this shouldn’t have been as difficult at home.
One reason was the officiating, which I never like to point to as an excuse unless you are victim of a bad call on the final play of the game. Rose attempted 28 shots and didn’t get one free throw. This seems fairly impossible unless the Rockets are the quickest, most adept defensive team in NBA history. And while Scola is terrific and had 27 points on an assortment of spinning moves that would make Kevin McHale proud, you’d still have trouble sticking a piece of paper under his jump. There’s Miller, who we know doesn’t move much and almost gets a three second call when he’s driving the lane. Their other so called big” is 6-4 Chuck Hayes who is measured in width. And this trio is supposed to have not committed a single infraction against Rose who, by my count, drove to the basket 15 times in the game?
Never touched, eh?
Obviously, that’s ludicrous in what has been on ongoing issue inside the Bulls.
It’s gotten so bad that teammates are telling Rose he has to start getting technicals, maybe even thrown out of a game to make his point, which, of course, would be worse. But is this what the NBA has come to, that a player, or his coach, has to draw fines and make a mockery of himself and a spectacle of the game to get equal treatment under the law?
No one in the NBA, players or coaches or executives, is allowed to respond to these things publicly as NBA commissioner David Stern is now said to be preparing secret CIA prisons and renditions for anyone questioning judgment calls. Or at least that’s the rumor. I’m checking it with LeBron’s people.
But, seriously, the Bulls didn’t get themselves in position to lose the game because of the lack of foul calls. They missed free throws, three of six in three straight late fourth quarter possessions by Boozer, they missed assignments and left shooters wide open, and Miller and Courtney Lee made big threes down the stretch in the fourth quarter (they combined for 19 in the fourth off the bench).
“We were down in the dumps,” said Noah. “Brad played a hell of a game. He texted me last night that he was going to bed early. That right there, I knew we had to be on edge because the Duck was going to come ready to play. I was talking to him at the free throw line and I distracted him and he missed a huge free throw and gave us a chance and D-Rose did the rest.”
The Bulls gave up 109 points in regulation to a team without two starters playing the second of a back to back on the road and now is giving up 109 per game the last three games, a total that would put them on a season basis as the league’s worst defensive team.
And herein lies the rub, as it were.
No one is regretting having Boozer back as he did what was advertised, 25 points, 10 trips to the free throw line, a player you can throw the ball to down the stretch for inside scores or fouls, what everyone said the Bulls always were missing.
“Each game he has gotten better and better and more comfortable,” said Thibodeau. “Against Boston, he had several offensive plays that were real good basketball plays. You could see his instincts taking over. Today his offense was very good and his rebounding effort was much better. Once Carlos knocked down a couple of shots, you could see his confidence grow. He was good in the pick and roll and the more minutes they have together, especially Derrick, they will get a feel for what they like to do.”
But Boozer also doesn’t defend the pick and roll particularly aggressively and gives up fairly deep position in the paint.
It’s going to present an intriguing set of circumstances for Thibodeau as to get scoring and better floor spacing, Thibodeau is finishing games with Kyle Korver.
It was Korver whom Lee beat twice, first with an open three and then a three point play on a baseline cut and foul as the Rockets took a 98-97 lead, their first since lead early in the first quarter, with 3:39 remaining.
Boozer hardly was ready to play his first two games, and those games were against the East’s best, the Magic and Celtics. But it’s almost as if Thibodeau has to look at a form of a platoon with Gibson for Boozer and Brewer for Korver.
In fact, to start the overtime after the Bulls allowed 30 points in the fourth quarter, the Bulls went with Gibson over Boozer. Boozer came in with about a minute left after Noah fouled out.
“I was looking at Houston running the high pick and roll,” said Thibodeau. “We were having trouble with it and Taj has been doing pretty well defending it. I was also concerned a little bit about Carlos Boozer’s minutes.”
Thibodeau, as we’ve learned, isn’t going to hang out a player as I think you could get him to make an MVP case for Brian Scalabrine. And Boozer did play well and contributed mightily to the win.
But he’s never been known for his defense. Look, he was that way when he was named an All-Star and USA Basketball team member and was on a conference finals Jazz team. So you have to live with it and figure it out. He also tends, at least for now, to clog things up a bit for Rose as Boozer likes to roam around in the paint and screen and roll, bringing more defenders toward Rose, which has accounted for additional turnovers with the floor more crowded now when Rose hits the middle. It’s something they can work out.
“The more minutes they play together, the more they will be able to learn about each other,” agreed Thibodeau.
The Bulls, and Boozer, had trouble controlling Scola from the start as the crafty Scola had 12 points in the first quarter, though Boozer came back with eight and a couple of impressive drop step baskets in the paint. Rose was on target from the beginning with a three early and a jet ski blow by basket, though just as impressive was his defense. Usually active if not always efficient, Rose was up pressuring and the Houston guards could not much penetrate the game. Though the Bulls led just 25-23 after one as Noah had trouble again finishing inside. Noah has proven adept from a few feet out driving left with that bank shot. He’ll make the jumper more often and is deadly with his tip. But he still has trouble finishing strong when he catches the ball and has to dribble or make a move and he whiffed on several of those.
The reserves with C.J. Watson, Brewer and Gibson to open the second were good again as Thibodeau seems to have a better substitution rotation there and the Bulls looked like they might make this an easy one with a 56-44 halftime lead as the bench was up celebrating as Omer Asik coolly dropped in a15 foot jumper. Can the Manute Bol three be next for him?
But the Rockets got their guards going and attacking in the third and closed to 81-79 after three when Lowry banked in a three pointer at the buzzer when the Bulls went too fast in their last possession. Rose just before had a highlight scoop after a highlight first half crossover of Lowry and left handed slam that preceded a behind the back driving move that drew the defense for an easy basket for Noah, plays that left you still gasping as the kid keeps coming up with something spectacular the more you see.
Still, the Bulls couldn’t shake the Rockets and suddenly began settling for jumpers. It looked like Rose might save the game when Houston got within 87-84 with seven minutes left as he left his perimeter defender spinning and drove past Jordan Hill for a layup and settled in for another transition three. But Miller and Lee came with the threes to set up Rose’s last second drama.
The way things went you get the feeling this is just the beginning of a rocky ride.