Bulls with another ho hum overtime win


Apr 16

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It might be said there was good and bad in the Bulls 100-94 overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons, other than the obvious of not having to listen to that public address announcer again this season.

There was the good of winning a second straight overtime game with a last second three to tie the game in regulation, this time from Derrick Rose, who was looking somewhat like himself with 24 points and nine assists with that clutch three after his poorest pro game and one of 13 against Miami.

“Very explosive today,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau of Rose. “I thought he was terrific. He still has some bobbles (seven turnovers and several air balls). But I thought his pick and roll offense was unbelievable. Changing directions was great, and I thought he was getting to the rim. He didn’t get the calls but he’s getting hit so he’s got to keep going.”

That included when Rose was going back at Charlie Villanueva after a particularly hard foul, a flagrant with 4:31 left in the game and the Bulls trailing by three, a fairly unlikely scenario against this disjoined 22-38 Pistons team.

Kyle Korver made one free throw and Rose two more to get the Bulls back tied. Though the Bulls tried desperately to give it away and only lousy free throw shooting by Rodney Stuckey and worse coaching by Lawrence Frank enabled the Bulls to hang around long enough for Rose to tie the game with another dramatic shot and the Bulls to pull away in overtime again to go to 46-14.

“Freelancing,” said Rose matter of factly, of course, of the play. “Pick and roll, see what we could get in transition, they backed up and I shot the ball.”

Rose, though, didn’t look the same off the court with a big gash on the bridge of his nose from Villanueva’s foul, of which Rose said he’s had enough. He went at and jawed some with Villanueva, who was confused as he rarely plays anymore and perhaps wasn’t even sure he was on the court as he’s forgotten what they’d looked like.

The cut on Rose’s bridge bled from time to time, and was obvious with trainers Fred Tedeschi and Jeff Tanaka doing the patching. I’m sure I heard Rose yell, “Cut me Mick,” at least once.

“I was mad,” said Rose. “I’m sick and tired of people trying to take cheap shots at me. He didn’t even aim for the ball.”

Joakim Noah

That would be the good, in addition to a spirited 20 points and 17 rebounds from Noah, including a league equaling best for this season of 13 offensive rebounds. Which I think is one more than the Bulls got all season in 1989 against the Pistons.

Anyway, it wasn’t a very committed overall effort from the Bulls, which is perhaps understandable after the emotional win over Miami Thursday and a desultory late afternoon in the half empty Palace turned Dungeon of Auburn Hills and the going nowhere Pistons.

Given it was Sunday, the Bulls probably figured they were expected to lose. But with the 6 p.m. local start, it probably did get dark in just enough time for the Bulls to have some Sunday success.

Still, tough to get up for a game like that, even with Thibodeau’s chants and screams.

The Bulls did have a 14-point third quarter lead, but it evaporated in a seven-minute stretch without a field goal, which would have been understandable if anyone on the Pistons was attempting to play defense. Though Rose looked good, and he did hit the big three, his shot wasn’t great and short several times, suggesting his legs aren’t quite there yet. But not too far away.

The Pistons actually took a 66-64 lead going into the fourth quarter as Ben Gordon in his new lifts blocked a Ronnie Brewer shot face up. Well, we assumed it had to be lifts, or something.

Then it was a battle throughout the fourth quarter, and actually an entertaining finish in what looked like it would be a sleeper. And there were some issues to consider.

Late in the fourth with the game tied at 79 with 3:28 left after a pair of Noah free throws, Gordon got wide open for a 16 footer with Luol Deng nowhere near him. This would be unusual since Deng was thwarting Gordon wherever he went and Ben was in his dribble/juggling act. So when everyone looked back to where Deng was, Deng was wincing and holding his side from a Gordon push off elbow, apparently to the ribs. Deng finished the game, of course, and played the entire overtime without even a shot attempt. He was one of eight in almost 45 minutes, and it seems now with his latest injury it’s time to give him games off.

And perhaps Richard Hamilton can play, also.

Korver was very good again with 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. It seems Thibodeau has settled into playing him more with Rose as the shooting guard late in games. Against a team like Detroit, the defensive issues don’t seem that great. The Pistons did try to go at Korver several times as the Bulls generally had Korver on Tayshaun Prince. But Prince is more court jester now and his lame attempts at offense — four points in 35 minutes — only aided the Bulls cause. And Korver did hit the effective clinching three in overtime with 1:25 left when Stuckey inexplicably left Korver alone in the corner to run to help guard Noah on a drive.

Though you can excuse the Pistons as they obviously don’t use scouting reports.

Hamilton had 13 points in just over 20 minutes, but once again he didn’t play in the fourth quarter or overtime. Yes, Korver has been very good of late. But the whole point of getting Hamilton — and he supposedly is healthy now — is getting him vital time with Rose and the other starters. He plays with them to start the first and third quarters, but that’s about it. Maybe Korver is better than last season. He is 10 of 15 on threes his last three games averaging just under 15 points. So perhaps he’s just riding the hot hand.

But Korver had a lot of trouble getting shots off against Miami in last season’s playoffs. Hamilton was supposed to be the guy to make a difference, and maybe he can’t. Maybe Thibodeau is slowly increasing his time aimed at the playoffs with as much time as Hamilton has missed. Or maybe Thibodeau has decided that Korver is a better option. After all, it’s not like the Bulls lose much.

Though they had blown this one.

Stuckey brought them back from the brink, including after a shocking Deng five-seconds inbound violation trailing by two with 15.3 seconds left. The Bulls did a good job denying Gordon, and then fouled Stuckey who made one of two for the second time in the last 16 seconds of the game. Stuckey led the Pistons with 32 points, but he looked like he wanted to go home rather than shoot those free throws in what passes now as De-troit basketball.

And then there was the late game Pistons’ coaching follies.

The Pistons went ahead 84-81 with 1:11 left on a nice Greg Monroe driving layup past Noah. Thibodeau designed a beauty coming out off an out of bounds, and Korver came up on top and Noah screened to free Carlos Boozer on the left baseline for a clutch 15 footer with 56 seconds left to get the Bulls back within one.

Frank called a timeout immediately despite the Bulls having their offensive players in the floor in Korver and Boozer. So Thibodeau, several steps ahead of the more veteran Frank, put in his defenders, Taj Gibson, Brewer and Omer Asik. Now Prince had to go against the tougher Brewer, and got off a bad shot. And then Asik tipped it away off a Piston and to the Bulls.

The Bulls got their timeout to go back to their offensive players, and the Pistons left Gordon out, presumably for offense the other way. Deng got him on a switch and seemed to have an easy path for a score even as Jason Maxiell came over. Deng, perhaps still shook from that rib shot, passed to Boozer, who missed a shot put inside. The Pistons rebounded and got the ball out of bounds. The Bulls fouled Stuckey after it appeared they’d trapped Stuckey into a turnover. But Stuckey got a timeout. And on the next inbounds with the Pistons using their last timeout as Frank had previously called so many, the Bulls fouled Stuckey and he made one of two.

So it was 85-83 Pistons with 15.3 seconds left.

Then came the surprising Deng five second turnover as Deng missed a wide open Rose at the basket after Gordon was picked off by Boozer.

It had to be over now. But Stuckey again made one of two and the Bulls had the ball, also with no timeouts left, with 13.8 seconds left. Rose broke out of the backcourt.

Foul? Ahead by three and the Bulls are one of the league’s poorest free throw shooting teams and would be 17 of 23 in the game. Hardly anyone actually does it anymore, though I’m not quite sure why. Even Thibodeau let the Knicks tie and win the game last week with late threes while ahead by two or three.

The Pistons actually seemed unprepared and shocked by the free throw miss. Gordon, of all guys, was supposed to be defending Rose. Now, c’mon. Really? Ben Gordon? Noah stepped up with a slight screen just over half court, which took care of Gordon, leaving Greg Monroe to guard Rose. Monroe jumped, but he was near the top of the key. Rose was four feet away, beyond the three point line. The Bulls can only save the game with a three.

Ok, you don’t foul even as Rose before he is taking the shot with about six seconds left. Why, I’ll never know. But they can’t beat you with a two. Yet, Prince, with the veteran savvy, Brandon Knight and Stuckey are all by the basket. Who are they guarding? Monroe, too, is inside the three point line. No one tries to take the ball out of Rose’s hands with Noah and Boozer on the court. But four Pistons are inside the three point circle when only a three can force overtime.

“He hit a big shot,” agreed Gordon. “Joakim set a hell of a screen in transition. At that point, the right play for us to make try to run him off of a three. But he had already got into a head of steam and got into his shot, so it was too late by then. It was off of a missed free throw and he had a head of steam. That’s what we would have liked to do (foul), but he got into his shot quicker than we were able to react.”

There is 6.4 seconds left after Rose’s tying three. But the Pistons were out of timeouts for all those vital huddles they had to have. So Stuckey runs up and Rose does a heck of a job staying in front and forcing him into a tough fallaway that came up short.

You couldn’t have had a worse, more disorganized finish in a playground game.

And then like Thursday, the team that gave up the three was beaten.

Boozer scored to start overtime, and then Stuckey threw in a wild three as the shot clock was running out, giving the Pistons some hope. The Bulls were trying to help with a pair of turnovers. But then Noah tipped in a Boozer miss to make it 90-89 with 2:35 left in overtime and Boozer, who had 15 points and nine rebounds, scored again on a drive getting Monroe on switch. After Stuckey scored out of a timeout with under two minutes left to bring Detroit within 92-91, Korver hit that wide open three when Stuckey left him. And then Noah put in his own second offensive rebound on the same possession following a Monroe miss to give the Bulls a 97-91 lead with about 30 seconds left. It would be the Bulls 15th consecutive victory over the Pistons, and a fairly unlikely one in the end.

“We struggled most of the game and in the end, just found a way to win it,” said Thibodeau. “Joakim was unbelievable with his offensive rebounding. Derrick, huge shot. We were a step behind on everything, but I thought the defense was pretty good. The rebounding was outstanding. Offensively we weren’t as sharp as we would like to be.”

The reserves other than Korver didn’t contribute much, though that is the nature of the job. The Pistons bench equaled the Bulls at 26 each.

The Pistons got a big boost off the bench from little used Villanueva, who matched Korver’s 13 points, but was jacking shots after a strong start and his one of six on threes is probably why he often doesn’t play as much.

The Bulls opened strong this time ahead 26-19 after one as Rose had eight points, two assists and two steals as the Bulls also took advantage of five Detroit turnovers. Rose looked good and seemed to be closing in quickly on his normal form, though got a scare with a slip on a wet floor at one point.

“It’s coming along,” said Rose. “I still have to get used to the tape (on his ankle), but driving, I think, is coming along and shooting and my rhythm of the game is coming along. Just working on my game all day in the gym, just shooting shots, driving, doing drills, just trying to get the feel for the basket.”

After the reserves struggled to open the second quarter, which has been rare of late and Villanueva got going, Thibodeau went back to the starters except for Hamilton midway through the second quarter and the Bulls pulled away to a 49-41 halftime lead with Noah scoring on a pair of tipins. Though light with his overall skills, when Noah plays with that sort of hustle and aggression it fuels the Bulls. After Monroe, with 13 points and eight rebounds, got off to a good start, it seemed the Pistons forgot about him. But Noah was so aggressive fronting and denying Monroe the ball, the Pistons gave in and began to settle for poor jump shots as the Bulls took that 60-46 lead early in the third.

“I just felt like the ball was moving so it was easier to get offensive rebounds and I just kept crashing,” said Noah.

The Bulls then went cold and Piston-like ineffective, setting up another unlikely finish. Perhaps you say they played badly in getting in that sort of game with a losing team. But they continue to find ways to win. Which is the road to ultimate success.

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