Rose’s 42 not enough in loss to Pacers


Mar 19

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So maybe it might be a challenging first round playoff matchup if the current positioning holds, as the Indiana Pacers withstood a furious Derrick Rose 42-point assault and hung on to defeat the Bulls in overtime 115-108 on Friday.

“That’s a team we could possibly see in the playoffs,” said Rose, who scored 19 fourth quarter points and hit three free throws to tie the game with 1.2 seconds left in regulation. “I can’t wait to play them again.”

It could come to that, as the Bulls, 49-19, held on to first in the Eastern Conference with Boston’s blowout loss in Houston, while the Pacers are in eighth by 1.5 games over Charlotte and 2.5 over Milwaukee.

Though the Bulls didn’t care for the result, it was a thrilling game, or finish, anyway, as the Bulls stormed back from 20 points behind midway through the third quarter to seemingly take away the game. Rose in tying his career high scored 19 of the Bulls last 20 points in the fourth quarter in the type of performance we saw so often from Michael Jordan.

When the Bulls lost, that is.

Rose doesn’t want to have to do this, and if he does it means the Bulls are in trouble and they are going to wear out their MVP to be.

For the last 13 minutes of the game, no other Bull scored a field goal as the other Bulls were a combined zero for nine through the end of overtime while several players seemed to turn down shots and went back to Rose with the ball. Certainly, Rose was taking it on himself to get the team back into the game, and we’d see that a lot with Jordan. In Boston it was with Bird, in Philadelphia with Wilt, in Atlanta with Dominique and in recent years with the Lakers with Kobe.

Was it because they were the best option given their talent and the others stepped back willingly? Or was it because the others stepped back and the star had no other choice?

It remains a conundrum of having such a transcendent talent, which Rose has become.

Is the glass half filled? Or is there a chicken with an egg in there? Gotta work on my clichés.

I’m not sure I got that one completely right.

“The only quarter we played defense was the fourth,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau of his defenders allowing their fourth highest point total of the season. “You usually get what you deserve. They got 26 second chance points. That probably was the difference in the game right there. We’ve got to do a lot better, a lot better. This is a step backwards.”

I assume Thibodeau now watches tape until Monday night’s game with woebegone Sacramento and then eats the machine. Though I actually thought this kind of game was very good for the Bulls.

Sure they lost, and it is generally considered a more positive experience to win.

For Thibodeau, it gives him a chance to knock some arrogance, though not confidence, out of a team growing more popular by the day after its latest streak was stopped at eight straight wins.

Moreso, I believed what was most significant was the way the Bulls refused to give up a game, the second of a back to back when hardly anyone (in the sports world) was paying attention given the NCAA tournament going on. But the Bulls kept coming like those 90’s Bulls teams, and 80s Celtics teams, and 70s Lakers and 60s Celtics. And the opposition kept wilting and wondering, sort of like Butch and Sundance wondering whom those relentless chasers were.

That trait is vital in a real playoff team, and one I saw so frequently with those old Bulls. I remember in one of the two playoff games they lost in 1991, Game 3 in the second round in Philadelphia, the Bulls trailed by 20-something and then scared the liberty bell out of the 76ers, who hung on to win by two, but were effectively beaten in the series then. One of my favorite games of the record 1995-96 season was in Denver after that amazing 41-3 start. So the Bulls go down by 31 points the next game and you figure the season is over as they’ll go to 41-4. They would, but not before coming back to actually take the lead late in that game.

That more than the 41-3 start was when I knew they were winning 70 games.

That rare character is in this team because of Rose.

“Derrick was great,” said Luol Deng, who backed up Rose with 21 points and 10 rebounds. “They couldn’t stop him. He kept going to the hole and to the line. He got us back in the game. Even when we are 20 or 30 down, we are always going to play hard. And Derrick is always going to make great plays. He led us on a comeback.”

That comeback with Rose’s three pressure free throws thanks to Darren Collison’s bonehead foul and then Rose’s block of Danny Granger’s last shot went for naught when the Pacers surprisingly took the game back in overtime behind Tyler Hansbrough, who had 29 points and 12 rebounds and truly was the difference for the Pacers.

The hustling former U. of North Carolina star is the Pacers answer to the Bulls Joakim Noah: No true skills, though Hansbrough has developed a nice jump shot. But relentless energy and activity. Noah generally turns that into wins for the Bulls. Hansbrough did for the Pacers in dominating Noah, who despite an offensive awakening with 17 points played one of his poorest defensive games of the season, which resulted in him being benched much of the fourth quarter and overtime.

It wasn’t so much Noah’s mere three rebounds and zero blocks, but being woefully out of position against Hansbrough time and again. On several occasions, teammates came to Noah after easy baskets from Hansbrough to gesture where Noah should have been.

Hey, it happens to the best of them.

But in the overtime, it was Hansbrough opening the scoring after a Deng miss as Thibodeau went more with Taj Gibson and his 16-rebound effort.

The crucial play probably was when Rose was stripped and the Pacers scored on a fast break with 3:29 left in overtime for a 106-102 lead. After a Deng three spun in and out, Danny Granger made a long three for a 109-102 lead that Rose wasn’t able to make up before he fouled out with 24 seconds left and the Bulls down three with Indiana shooting free throws.

Though I thought the Bulls handled that Rose turnover situation poorly as they put Gibson in the pick and roll. That brought Hansbrough up, and he stripped Rose on the double as basically the Pacers’ only interested defender. Previously, the Bulls had been putting Roy Hibbert or Granger in the pick and roll, and Hibbert mostly waved to Rose as Rose blew by and between Hibbert and Rose’s defender, usually Collison. Granger, a notoriously indifferent defender, would just let Rose go to get back to his man, usually Deng. Granger did have 19, though he’s one of those guys who likes to note he had his guy. You know, the heck with team defense.

Which is why the Bulls should be defeating teams like the 30-39 Pacers, and usually do.

The Pacers for some curious reason rarely pressured Rose to get the ball out of his hands at a time when other Bulls either didn’t seem comfortable shooting or were missing. Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer were a combined two of nine and Keith Bogans extended his miss streak on threes to nine straight in a scoreless 15 minutes.

C.J. Watson had a strong second quarter start with three straight baskets after the Bulls fell behind by 10 in the first quarter in a game they led only during the first six minutes and were tied after that only as regulation ended.

But Watson, overall, was three of 10 and the Bulls were six of 27 on threes as they continued their new hobby of training for the three point contest.

“We’ve got to move the ball,” said Thibodeau, noting 10 assists on 35 baskets.

Though if no one else is making shots and they keep handing the ball back to Rose what else can he do?

“We were settling for quick threes, long shots,” said Thibodeau, who said those shots are fine with him if they come off ball movement and post passing or dribble penetration and then out. “We are not going inside out. Searching out threes is fool’s gold.”

Speaking of Watson, I have an aside here about that plus/minus stat. Watson was plus-2. Rose was minus-9. OK, no more of that stat.

Yes, the Bulls did score more than 100 points in regulation, and Carlos Boozer isn’t exactly the defensive stopper. But the Bulls can use his return, which remains uncertain as he missed his fifth straight game with a sprained ankle. He could return Monday for the Kings or Tuesday in Atlanta on TNT, though with two more days off after that I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s March 25 at home against Memphis.

At least Boozer can be a target in the fourth quarter to take some of that pressure off Rose, who doesn’t seem the least bit concerned.

“Next time I should do something different to change the game,” said Rose.

Like sweep the floor. With other than Pacers’ defenders, I mean.

It went badly for the Bulls pretty much from the beginning as Hansbrough kept getting open as the Pacers popped him out to the free throw line for jumpers. He had 13 points in the first quarter. Whereas it’s usually a detriment to opponents, Noah’s frenetic energy seemed too much this time as he seemed to be constantly just running in circles, chasing whomever he’d see in what could not be any semblance of a defensive scheme. You’d hear Thibodeau yell “weak,” which means he wants the player driven to his weak hand, and there’d be no response to that.

“We’ve got to come out and be ready to play,” said Thibodeau. “They’re a physical team (third in rebounding to the Bulls’ second). They killed us on the boards to start the game and we never adjusted. We should be able to count on defense and rebounding every night. When we do not defend we’re not very good. We’re capable of playing better than we did.

“You’ve go to get into the fray, make contact and then you’ve got to fight,” said Thibodeau. “We did not do that until late. We have to go into the game thinking we have to put everything into it. We got into a hole and had to fight our way out and we did not have enough energy to finish it off at the end.”

The Bulls will switch their big men, and Thomas got Hansbrough several times. Thomas was good with drawing several charges and his usual stand-you-up screens, and Omer Asik had some good moments. But when Jeff Foster played eight feet off him in the lane and Asik still wouldn’t shoot, Thibodeau took Asik out and Asik played about seven minutes after halftime.

The Bulls began to get back into it in the second quarter against the Pacers’ reserves, though Hansbrough got on the offensive boards late for a couple of putbacks and the Pacers stayed ahead 62-48 at halftime with at that point a rare 21-14 rebounding margin over the Bulls.

Hansbrough, whom many doubted would have much of an NBA career, actually was high on the Bulls draft list before last season, which he missed much of with vertigo. They likely would have taken him if he fell to them, though that’s also like saying they would have taken Shaq if he fell to them. He didn’t.

The Bulls hadn’t been doing a good job getting a man back to Hansbrough, but they adjusted after halftime. The Pacers were getting Hansbrough open picking off Rose on top against Collison and then the big men collapsing. After halftime, they started running Deng or the corner defender at Hansbrough on that play, and the Pacers aren’t particularly adept at moving the ball.

It was helping the Bulls get back in to open the third, down 63-54 when Bogans had a bit of a meltdown with a pair of turnovers.

Apparently out of frustration, he then pushed Hibbert from behind and he fell into Noah. Bogans drew a flagrant foul, which led to a Pacers’ five-point possession and a bump that enabled the Pacers to push out to a 79-59 lead after a Dahntay Jones three with 6:12 left in the third.

Asik had a terrific two handed block and Gibson a couple of strong rebounds and scores, though the Pacers stayed tough in taking an 89-73 lead into the fourth.

Rose watched from the bench the first four minutes of the fourth, coming back with the Bulls behind 95-80. Noah then scored on a nice pass from a driving Korver, and then Rose took over the game like only the great ones can as Granger threw in his MVP endorsement, calling Rose the most dominant player they’ve played this season.

It would be difficult to argue after that breathtaking fourth quarter, and knowing Rose you know he was despondent over the loss.

With games like this with so many foul calls and close calls, there never is one play that makes the difference. But it did appear the Bulls had a basket trailing 95-85 in a terrific rebounding sequence from the relentless Gibson. Gibson grabbed three straight offensive rebounds, saving one halfway out of bounds, though the Bulls would miss four threes on the possession. Deng scored after one, but it was waved off and called a foul before the shot and not in the penalty. Yes, but did they have to take four threes?

And Rose was getting the foul calls this time with 18 of 21 free throws, half the team’s total attempts in a brutish affair.

Meanwhile, Rose had seen enough after that, obviously.

He took screens, splitting doubles, throwing the ball through as he’s doing lately and catching it on the other side and one time spinning by Granger, who could have developed his own case of vertigo from watching.

There it went: Three point play, two foul shots, driving score, drive for another three point play, drive for one of two free throws, the Pacers buckling and shooting short, throwing the ball away, dribbling into traps. Finally after Rose spun a three in and out with 31 seconds to go and trailing by three, that looked like it might be the end. But Collison coughed up the ball again as Gibson got to him and the Bulls got the ball with 6.9 seconds left.

A three to tie.

Korver inbounded. Rose came open off one of those crunching Thomas screens and went into the left corner with Collison chasing. Rose got the pass and turned back dribbling looking for the three point line on top.

Foul? They weren’t. At least not when it was smart.

Rose turned back as if he were going to dribble back into the left corner, but Korver brought his man, Brandon Rush, back that way. So Rose went back again above the circle on the left side, stopped short and went up and Collison ran into him. The shot went short, but the whistle had blown. The officials checked and made it 1.2 seconds even though there was 0.6 when the whistle blew. No matter.

Rose went to the line, swished the first, bounced in the second and swished the third. Like Rose said after missing that last free throw to cost a game to the Clippers back in December. Give him another chance.

He and the Bulls would love to get another against the Pacers in about a month.

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