In a story which I suspect will become all too common as the years go by, Derrick Rose saved the Bulls and willed them to a victory with a brilliant fourth quarter performance. What probably isn't so common about this story is he did it with a barrage of three point shots, knocking down three of three early in the fourth and adding a drive to the hoop with an and 1. The Bulls turned an eight point deficit into a nine point lead at the 4:31 mark in the fourth quarter.
However, the Bulls struggled down the stretch and failed to score again until the Rockets started intentionally fouling, but managed to hang on and beat the Rockets 95-92.
The Bulls have a lot of things to be thankful for in this game. It's a game that I thought they should have won easily, but it's also a game they probably shouldn't have won on the court. The second big story was the poor play of the starting lineup. They really struggled with the Rockets defense which did an outstanding job in getting back to shut down the early offense opportunities.
If it weren't for a blistering 8-12 from behind the three point line,
this ball game goes the other way. If it weren't for instant replay
over turning five Rockets points, this game would have gone the other
Without getting anything out of the early offense, the Bulls struggled in the half court. Shane Battier, an outstanding positional defender, is perhaps the worst type of matchup for Luol Deng, because he never makes mental mistakes defensively and Deng doesn't have the type of game to abuse Battier athletically.
Rose knocking down four of five threes has to make opposing coaches queasy.
Derrick dominated when it mattered, but the way he did so was so unusual for the Bulls. To reign fire from beyond the arc is about the least likely way you'd expect Rose to beat you. Getting out in transition? Yes. Killing you in the half court? Sure. Beating you with threes? .... If that becomes a pattern, then the response is 'ut oh'.
Look, everyone has hot games, and Rose is shooting 32% on the season after this four of five from the three point line with only 11 makes on the year from the three point line. Still, the fact that he's working on it and can have nights like this is awfully encouraging.
Derrick Rose with a three point shot is a legit MVP candidate. Derrick's had too many great nights to say this was the best night of his career, but 33 points on only 20 shots (25 possessions counting FT and TOs) is one of the more efficiency high scoring nights he's ever had.
Have you noticed Luol's scoring in the fourth quarter?
Bulls fans have ragged on Deng for years for disappearing in the fourth quarter, but something strange has happened this year. He's actually routinely hit pretty big shots in the fourth quarter.
Granted, he was two of five on FG attempts in the quarter, but one of the makes was a three, and he also knocked down three free throws after being intentionally fouled to put up eight points in the quarter. We're not going to write home about this fourth quarter performance, but in the fourth 2/5 for 8 points while the rest of the game he was 4-16 for 8 points.
It's about the nicest thing I could think of to say about Deng who struggled against Battier all night long. Battier is probably a near worst case defender for Deng, because he's so smart and good positionally, and Deng lacks the athleticism to take advantage of him and typically gets his points off of his own heady play.
Joakim Noah was relatively ineffective in this game
My how our expectations for Noah have grown. The guy puts up 12/9, and I'm going to rag on him for a poor game. However, his defense was poor, and he never seemed to really get into the flow of the game. He had a short stretch early where he did most of his damage and looked like was on his way to a solid game, but he could never get it going in the second half again.
I believe his 30 minutes marks the fewest he's played in a game this season, and Omer Asik played during the entire stretch that decided the outcome of the game.
Still, as I've noted before, when a guy like Noah gives you 12/9, and you're disappointed, then you know he's done a great job at improving his game.
Taj Gibson was a train wreck
Well, you knew Taj Gibson wasn't going to shoot 60% all season long. Taj dropped his FG% by 5% with this game alone throwing up a one for nine game that made you want to claw out your eyes.
His defense on Scola was head-shakingly bad as he fell for the same pump fake into a spin move for a layup move probably three plays inside four minutes. Granted, Scola's a good offensive player, but you can't bite on the same pump fake move over and over again. Force the guy to shoot the jumper.
Keith Bogans didn't play much or do much
Okay, I'm only putting him up this high on the list to clump him with the starters, but Bogans had to sit early with foul trouble in the first giving Ronnie Brewer a shot to get in the game, and then Brewer played some outstanding basketball, so the Bulls didn't go to Bogans much after that.
He did knock down his one shot on the night, a three pointer.
Ronnie Brewer played big in the second quarter
Brewer played around 18 minutes in the first half, probably the most he's played in a half this season, and he rewarded the Bulls with some outstanding play. His defense helped turn the game around, and he found ways to get opportunity baskets, sealing his man in the paint for a shot, finding open spaces on the floor, and making things happen in transition.
Ronnie Brewer is coming closer and closer to the Brewer we thought we were going to get and he looks like he's recovering his athletic burst. His play has definitely improved when on the court with Derrick Rose.
Thank you for gutting out that knee pain Kyle Korver
Korver was so good on the night. 10 points on five possessions is huge, and while he didn't chip in a ton of points, the efficiency in which he chipped them in really helped save the team. His late fourth quarter three was the dagger that really finished off the Rockets.
He also continues to move the ball really well and help make shots for other players when teams try to crowd him by running out on him. The offense just has so many more opportunities when Korver is in the game, much like Brewer, his strong play in the first half helped keep the Bulls in this game.
Omer Asik continues to play well off the bench
He's playing in limited minutes,with limited skills and still can't hit free throws. He still racks up fouls at an incredible rate as well, but so far, the Bulls never look in trouble with Asik steps on the court.
Despite his foul rate, he plays solid positional defense, helps shut down the lane, and does a solid job on the boards. On offense, he continues to take advantage of the easy opportunities that come his way and goes right to the hoop for easy baskets if opponents try to abandon him.
Asik definitely looks like he's worth the three second rounders the Bulls paid to get him.
The Bulls were lucky to survive this game, but a win is a win. A few things that stuck out to me in this game:
First, the Bulls had Derrick Rose use a "foul to give" at the end of the 1st half, and they later had to sit him with foul trouble. The use of the "foul to give" was meaningless anyway, there's so many times that teams go to this play, but how does it really affect anything? There are now 8 seconds left, which is still plenty of time to set up a final isolation play.
If you can't use the foul to give with around five seconds or less there's really no point to it, and I don't think you ever want to have your best player use it. I remember thinking at the time, "well this probably won't come back to bite us, but I don't like it".
Also, end of the game, there's .7 seconds left on the clock, Derrick is on the line for a final free throw, Houston has no timeouts left. Do you make or miss the free throw? Your odds of winning the game are likely near guaranteed no matter what, but if you miss the free throw it would take more than .7 seconds to get the rebound let alone shoot.
Since there were no timeouts, it wouldn't be possible to get a quick TO call and advance the ball. Granted, it's probably still the right move to try to make the shot, because the only way you lose the game is likely airballing an intentional miss allowing them to take the ball out of bounds and beat you with a three, but a miss that hits the rim ends the game 100% of the time.
The Rockets didn't ever get a shot off in that final .7 as Derrick Rose intercepted the inbounds pass, but they ran a nice play out of the free throw with everyone sprinting down the court, and if Rose hadn't made an extremely athletic tip of that pass then the Rockets would have had a clean look at a three pointer if they could do a catch turn and shoot in .7 seconds.
Ultimately irrelevant, but it will be interesting to see how Thibodeau responds to those situations the next time they come up.