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Derrick does in Dallas

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Jan 21

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Derrick Rose has this dream. Just to be a point guard, to run the team, make the pass and watch his teammates swish shot after shot. Oh, would that be sweet.

So it was halftime Thursday of the Bulls’ eventual 82-77 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, and Rose wasn’t feeling too badly. The Bulls had just finished a strong 16-5 close over the last 4:31 on a Rose three. Kurt Thomas had a follow basket, Kyle Korver a jumper, Omer Asik a pair of free throws, Ronnie Brewer a jumper and Korver another.

It would be the Bulls’ biggest lead of the game, 44-35, but coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t happy.

“Derrick!” he bellowed at halftime in the locker room.

Uh oh.

“Yelling,” Rose recalled with a laugh after the game. “I could hear in his voice when he was saying, ‘Derrick!’ I could tell he was mad.

“Coach was telling me I wasn’t shooting. He was mad I wasn’t shooting,” said Rose, who was four of eight for nine points at halftime. “He said I wasn’t being aggressive. I listened to him. I went out there and was trying to get them up.”

Rose did, 20 of them in the second half to be exact, and although Rose finished nine of 28 for 26 points, the Bulls were able to recover from a 60-56 deficit after three quarters. Because in the last nine minutes, Rose either made a basket, assisted on the others or his shot was rebounded primarily by Thomas and put back to enable the Bulls to answer every Mavericks score and move to 29-14 with the win.

Rose also had nine assists, seven rebounds and two blocks, and though it was a dull affair with the Bulls not having a single fast break point, the individual effort and victory on national TNT should cinch a starting spot for Rose on the Eastern Conference All-Star team with online voting concluding this weekend. The starters will be announced next Thursday.

Rose was the only Bulls player to score in double figures with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer still out, though Boozer may return from a sprained ankle Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’ve seen that before, though I think it was when Wilt played.

“Derrick Rose is their team,” said Jason Terry. “ I don’t care who else they have on that roster.  He took 28 shots tonight. We made it tough on him.  But key guys made some big plays.  (C.J.) Watson hit a couple threes and Kurt Thomas was huge for him. Anybody who takes 28 shots, it’s the Jordan rules.  You’re not going to guard anyone, he’s just going to keep hoisting them.”

Hey, maybe there’s a book there.

But the Mavs, led by Dirk Nowitzki and now 27-15, couldn’t do much about Rose. The win meant a season sweep for the  Bulls over the Mavs for the first time since the 1996-97 when Jordan did rule as the Mavs came into this season having won 18 of the last 23 against the Bulls.

“We weren’t making shots,” said Rose. “We didn’t have anyone going. It was one of those games. Se we’re just happy we got that win. It makes me feel good knowing we can beat a good team without (two of) our key players. Give credit to Taj (Gibson), Lu (Deng) and Kurt rebounding. They all did a good job out there. If anything, it gives us confidence. There’s a good vibe going around and we’re going to try to keep it like that.”

It’s difficult to say what exactly that game meant. The Bulls failed to score a fast break point in what is generally regarded as the so-called “dog days” of the season, the period as teams hit halfway and sometimes are on fumes waiting for the All-Star break.  And perhaps few teams more than the Bulls with Noah and Boozer each out at least a month and both out now. Still, the Bulls are 13-6 when Noah doesn’t play and 11-7 when Boozer doesn’t play. They don’t want to find out what they might be if Rose doesn’t play.

Deng shot poorly again, three of 13 as he’s five of 24 the last two games. He played 40 minutes yet again, and with Gibson in foul trouble and playing fewer than 20 minutes, Deng mostly had to guard Dirk Nowitzki, who led the Mavs with 19 as he returns from a knee injury. The Bulls probably got a bit of a break getting the Mavs off a big win over the Lakers Wednesday.

Nowitzki admitted he was surprised the Bulls didn’t double team him much, especially against a smaller player like Deng. The Bulls did a few times, but Nowitzki is good passing out of the double. So the Bulls stayed home more on Dallas’ good shooters, like Terry and Jason Kidd, and Deng forced Nowitzki, six of 16, into several fading, off balance misses, including a huge one-one-one defensive stand against Nowitzki with the Bulls hanging onto an 78-77 lead with 2:14 left. Nowitzki missed against Deng and Rose came back and scored.

“That is what I love about Luol,” said Thibodeau.  “He can play effectively when he is not shooting well.  His defense and he is always doing other things like tonight rebounding the ball for us (team high 12 in the Bulls 51-41 rebounding edge over the much bigger Mavs).  He sets screens and runs the floor.  He is invaluable for us.”

Equally so Thursday was Thomas, the Association’s second oldest player who had nine points and 11 rebounds, including an amazing eight fourth quarter rebounds outplaying both Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood.

“I know those guys are taller than me, more athletic, younger,” said Thomas. “So I try to use my knowledge of the game, my positioning and somehow come out with the rebound. It’s all about knowledge of the game.”

And having Rose.

With the game tied at 66 with 8:54 left, the Bulls’ scores came this way:

– Watson right corner three off a Rose penetration with the Mavs back in a zone.

– Watson with another three from Rose as the Bulls went with the smaller backcourt for quickness. “The shots CJ hit in the fourth were huge for us,” said Thibodeau.  “The way they had matchups really dictated that for us.  I was concerned about their quickness.  That allowed us at least to match up better against them and not have so many scramble situations.  I said this before, CJ has been playing very well for us.”

– Rose with a drive and over the shoulder score after splitting the double team on top.  “He’s seeing every kind of defense there is from zoning to getting the ball out of his hands to the early blitz to a regular blitz, so he’s figuring all that stuff out,” said Thibodeau. “Even though he didn’t get a lot of calls, he created a lot of stuff. The 17 offensive rebounds were mainly a result of his penetration.”

– Thomas made it 76-71 Bulls with 4:47 left on a putback of a Rose miss.

– Thomas hit an 18 footer open off a Rose penetration and pass for a 78-73 lead.

The Mavs scored four straight by Nowitzki, so then Rose missed, got the rebound and backed out for that 18 footer to make it 80-77 Bulls with 55 seconds left.

And the Mavs, who would shoot 35.6 percent (36.9 percent for the Bulls), would fail to score again as Shawn Marion committed a turnover and Jason Kidd missed a long heave.

“We thought we could come down the stretch and win in a one-possession game,” said Kidd. “We couldn’t knock down the shot at the end.”

Hardly anyone was knocking them down at any point, though Keith Bogans scored six points on a pair of threes as the Bulls moved to 10-0 when Bogans scores at least six points.

The Mavs led 20-19 after one quarter as the Bulls defense remained active, which has made the Bulls the top rated defensive team in opponents’ field goal percentage despite not having anyone regarded around the Association as a top defensive stopper.

Mavs players acknowledged the Bulls play a physical style, and Carlisle added: “It was a very physical game, everything was contested the whole night.  It was an old-fashioned, Eastern-style game. ”     

The Bulls held the Mavs to 21 percent shooting in the second quarter to take that nine-point halftime lead. But the Mavs smothered Rose and the Bulls into three of 16 shooting in the third quarter. And with Gibson going out on fouls as he was biting on Nowitzki’s pump fakes—Deng even took him aside a few times to counsel him to stay down—the Mavs shut out the Bulls the last 3:21 of the third to take that 60-56 lead into the final quarter.

The Mavs went to Nowitzki. The Bulls went to Rose.

The Bulls won.

“Their team finds ways to win,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. “That’s one of the things that’s defined their year so far.”

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