The name of the game is Rose


May 7

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I know he’s not the thimble. Perhaps a top hat, classy and efficient. Definitely a cannon, as opponents know well. Though perhaps a boot, which his fellow players feel, at least verbally, when Derrick Rose starts talking some smack.

And, oh will the kid talk.

No, you and I won’t see it because it doesn’t come on the basketball court. That for business.

Monopoly is for fun, and you don’t want to challenge or take a chance against Rose in that famous board game, either.

“I’m cursing, jumping around in people’s faces, celebrating,” Rose was saying gleefully after Bulls practice Saturday surrounded by reporters. “When people shake the dice. I call out a number and they’ll roll and it lands (on that number). They hate that. They think I have trick dice. I just love that game.”

Sure, Rose had just sent the Atlanta Hawks to jail with a spectacular, if seemingly effortless, 44-point assault Friday that enabled the Bulls to park freely with a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals with Game 4 in Atlanta Sunday night.

The Hawks, predictably, talked Saturday about playing tougher and more physically against Rose, which means either unpacking thug Zaza Pachulia from series mothballs or making some sort of late, unauthorized trade.

“I’m not saying hurt people or things like that,” Hawks coach Larry Drew told reporters. “But you’ve got to give physical fouls. It’s the playoffs. We didn’t play physical, playoff basketball. I told our guys, a guy that shoots the ball as much as he does, there’s a chance his numbers would be pretty good. But if we’re allowing him to just constantly get to the paint and score on uncontested shots.”

I’m not saying the Hawks are a soft team, but Pau Gasol making a muscle scares them. They talked about trapping Rose, which may prove difficult for a team that should be arrested for loitering for all the time they spend standing around in the lane.

A team that needs help from the community chest? They’re not quite a charity case yet.

“I’m ready for (physical play),” Rose said evenly. “It’s the playoffs. If anything, I thought the Indiana series was more physical, but I played through it. They’re going to keep fighting. They are a good team. They have a lot of great scorers and can cut a lead down fast.

“We’ve got to be aggressive with them and make it tough on them,” said Rose. “They’re not trapping me at all. If anything, they are going under screens. I got my confidence back. It really didn’t go anywhere. I just had to see some shots go in.

“We’ve just got to keep coming out and playing with an edge,” said Rose. “That’s the biggest thing right now. It’s up to the starters to come out and play well. If we do, the bench follows and it’s pretty hard to beat us when everyone is playing well.”

It’s natural to try to react when your team gets cut up by one player (no other Bulls starter was in double figures). And again dominated on the boards as the Hawks have been in the last two games, outrebounded by an average of 16 per game.

After beating the Magic with a bigger lineup that had the plodding Jason Collins at center with Al Horford at power forward, the Hawks went back to their lineup of most of the regular season that included Marvin Williams, arguably the least impactful starter in the NBA, at small forward. It looked good after a Game 1 win in Chicago, though Joe Johnson went off for 34 and Jamal Crawford for 22 in that game.

The Bulls countered that well with a strong show off the pick and roll, the double team virtually paralyzing Crawford, who doesn’t react well to pressure and doesn’t move the ball quickly. Similarly, the Bulls blitzed Joe Johnson on his isolations, and he tends to fall into overdribbling, again giving the Bulls big men time to recover in the lane.

The Atlanta Constitution calculated Johnson had 14 isolations the last two games that got the team eight points. Johnson blew off reporters Saturday, not exactly standing up for your $126 million salary.

You really don’t change who you are in the playoffs. Yes, the Hawks can go bigger. But they aren’t a physical, trapping team. If they beat you, it’s with hot shooting and fast breaks. You try to do what you do. Just better, not invent a new defense. It seems clear the Hawks don’t know what to do.

I think they’ve erred not using the energetic Damien Wilkins as they’re being outworked. Actually, it’s not that they have many answers with Kirk Hinrich, one of their few hard working players, out for the series. Though substitute point guard Jeff Teague has played well. Playing with Hinrich could have made a difference.

The Bulls with a dominating defensive effort and leading by double figures most of Game 3 regained the home court edge they lost in Game 1. They did it, in large part, with a more highly charged effort to open the game with the bigs throwing outlets and Rose racing into scoring position before the defense could can set, assuming they do much, anyway.

So Rose was amazing with that career high game that made you think maybe this was a new era version of the cool Oscar Robertson. Rose made just about every shot imaginable, and seemingly with so little effort and emotion you didn’t realize he was on the way to one of the great games ever, one of the youngest players ever to score more than 40 in a playoff road game.

You would have hardly noticed afterward as Rose chatted casually with Bulls staff waiting for his turn in the post game interview room for the coaches and stars of the game. There’s always a buffet of food in the post game locker room, and Rose packed a container of pasta to take back to his room. He then realized he was going out to eat with his brother and gave it away. He wore a pair of loose fitting jeans and put on his headphones, just another day fro a kid at play.

Until someone Saturday mentioned playing Monopoly. Rose brightened.

“Playing Monopoly with my mom, my friends, I’ll talk smack, try to kill them,” said Rose. “I just don’t do it in basketball. No breaks for mom or anyone else (even on Mother’s Day). I like people being mad at me because I am killing them.”

Yes, the fire of a competitor burns, if not always seen.

“You get the houses first,” Rose was happily explaining. ”Then you start getting people scared. You’ve got to hide your money because you don’t want anyone seeing what you have. Then it’s the hotels and it’s game.”

We see them as men, but they really are kids, and it was fun watching what it was like to be around Pooh, not Derrick this time.

Of course, no one among the Bulls would say it, nor should they. After all, the Hawks beat them up pretty good in Game 1 back home. Shooters can get hot in a game.

But this seems like game to me.

Rose is playing brilliantly and seemingly with little discomfort from the sprained ankle. Joakim Noah seems just about back to his pre-injury form. He is averaging 10.7 points and 12.7 rebounds and more than two blocks. Rose is now averaging 31 points and nine assists in this series. Carlos Boozer is at 9.3 points and 8.3 rebounds, but Taj Gibson is complementing him with six rebounds per game and almost two blocks. Boozer seems comfortable with the rotation and fewer minutes with his turf toe injury and probably was the most enthusiastic player on the bench in Game 3. I know that’s expensive for support, but now as everyone says it’s about winning.

“If anything, I looked at Jason Kidd, the way he rebounded the ball and pushed it up, putting pressure on people,” said Rose. “That’s what I tried to do. Jo and Booz did a great job rebounding and throwing the outlet.”

Rose, not surprisingly, said he doesn’t watch the highlight shows of what he does and hadn’t seen anything about the game until the team’s film session Saturday morning.

I just play the game,” Rose said. “I guess people like seeing the way I play. I just try to go out and play hard and win the game.”

Rose, a fight fan and close friend with Floyd Mayweather, was planning to watch the Pacquiao/Mosley fight with family and friends Saturday night. He isn’t much aware of Bulls history and didn’t know the last time the teams played in the playoffs, the Hawks split in Chicago and the Bulls then won the next three by an average of 15 per game. The Bulls have won the last two by an average of 15.

“The only game I really watched back then was when Mike hit that shot over Bryon Russell,” Rose said. “I always thought about playing in the NBA, having dreams where I saw myself in the NBA. Not where I was out there myself with so many points waving to the crowd or going crazy.”

But, now, Monopoly, that’s another thing. In your face with Park Place!

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