There's an adage in sports, when going up against the great teams, take the great player out of the game and make the supporting cast beat you. The Bulls did that against L.A., forcing Bryant to pass the ball as much as possible, and by the end of the game, the Lakers tried to do that to the Bulls all night long as well double teaming Rose 40 feet from the basket all fourth quarter and frequently earlier in the game.
In the end, the Laker supporting cast beat our supporting cast.
Derrick Rose continues to look like a superstar. By the end of the game, he was worn out and exhausted, and the Bulls desperately need Boozer back, so the load on Rose isn't so heavy, but Rose was all parts amazing in this game and did everything I asked. He even drew a slew of fouls by driving into contact.
There really isn't more you could ask for Rose, he only had eight assists, but his teammates were missing shots, and late in the game they double teamed him too far from the basket for him to get the ball in the hands of player's who'd take the shot and was instead making the pass that led to the pass for an assist.
He used his one handed free throw line push shot with tremendous effect in this game, it's a shot I think will never work, but I believe he was 3 of 4 on attempts with it. He also diced into the lane with an array of acrobatic finishes and reverses.
Let's just hope Rose has some left in the tank for tomorrow. He's a young guy, but man did he have to work hard last night.
Joakim Noah stepped up big time. If you knew that Joakim Noah would go for 19 points adn 13 rebounds while Pau Gasol would go for 12/11, and Noah would be 7/13 from the field vs Gasol's 3/10, you'd think the Bulls had a shot, and well, they did. Noah had numerous tip ins at the rim, and just played with about 10 times the energy of Gasol, who looked like a corpse for much of this game.
Not including in his rebounding totals were the number of times he tipped a ball that later was picked up by a Bulls player. Noah was, by far, the better player tonight, and it's good to see him take such a personal investment against a tough matchup and win it.
He also was extremely disruptive on the defensive end of the court blocking numerous shots, picking up lots of steals, and playing great help defense against Kobe Bryant. Noah was asked to be all over the court, and he was.
Taj Gibson played really well again. Coming off the heals of his monster game against Dallas, Gibson fought through whatever pain he had in his foot and delivered another monster performance. While he did defend Lamar Odom, who had a great night overall, most of Odom's damage came when Gibson was asked to help on double teams and had open shots not due to dominating Gibson with his own offense.
Gibson also was flying around the court pressuring the ball and helping on double teams with Bryant and forcing the ball out of his hands. He rebounded well, defended well, and chipped in 16 points on efficient shooting.
That's it for the good news for the Bulls.
Luol Deng started hot and finished cold. Deng scored all 13 of his points in the first quarter. He couldn't get anything going at the end of the game, he was missing his threes, and when the Bulls needed someone to step up and help Derrick when double teamed, Deng wasn't that guy.
Granted, we all know Deng's not going to be that guy. He doesn't create his own shot. Yet, we still expect it out of him because their simply is no one else. He did do a solid job defensively when defending Kobe, whom he was matched up with on several occasions, a much better job than Bogans who was getting torched unless the Bulls immediately sent a second defender to force a hard double team on Kobe.
Kyle Korver needs to hit his shots. In this game it didn't happen. In some ways, there's little else to say about Korver, his good/bad typically just depends on whether he knocks down his shots, but he was 0-4 from the three point line with several high quality looks, and I believe one of his twos was with a foot on the line.
When your designated shooter puts up a goose egg, it allows your opponent to continue to press your star players. Korver has been consistently good this season, but this game his lack of shooting really doomed the Bulls. If he hits just 2 of his 3s, this game has an entirely different complexion.
Ronnie Brewer did give the Bulls some defense. Brewer wasn't all bad, as he did make an impact defensively, and he forced some fouls and had a spectacular dunk off a cut where the Lakers basically had a quadruple team set up on Derrick Rose.
You'd like to see him be able to create more offense given the type of coverage the Lakers played on Rose played into his game leaving him lanes to operate in. However, the Bulls had a hard time passing out of the double teams and moving the ball quickly, so even when Ronnie made cuts the Bulls weren't able to find him frequently.
C.J. Watson is still struggling to hit shots. His ball handling has largely been better, and his defense has been decent, but Watson seems to have lost his shooting touch. He's really struggling from the field even when given good, open looks.
Keith Bogans gave the Bulls nothing. He was torched by Kobe (though in all fairness, he did stay in front of Kobe and generally force tougher shots), and he could not knock down shots. He's had another atrocious shooting night going 1-5 on open threes behind the arc. He's now down to 29% from the three point line while taking almost all wide open kick outs and lots of them from the corner.
There's really very little he's adding to the team right now, and he needs to knock down those open shots to stay on the floor.
Omer Asik played some solid defense. He wasn't credited with any blocks in the box score, but he had at least one monster rejection on the night, and did a nice job in his minutes of filling in the lane. He didn't get any favors from the refs, not getting a couple calls where the Lakers hacked him and falling victim to a dicey foul on the other end. He certainly wasn't special, but he again acquitted himself well.
Bogans, Korver, Brewer, and Watson combined for 13 points on 20 (4/20) shots, four free throw attempts, and three turnovers. That's 13 points on 25 possessions. Those shots were mostly open looks. Shots you expect your role players to knock down at a good percentage.
Barnes, Blake, and Brown combined for 37 points and knocked down9 of 17 three point shots. In particular, Brown knocked down 5 of 10 from beyond the arc, and I believe he was 5/7 at one point. I was never high on the Shannon Brown bandwagon, but he's now hitting threes at an extraordinary rate. At present, he looks like one of the best signings this off-season. He's on an extreme value contract given what he's presently bringing to the table.
How a guy went from being a poor shooter, to someone knocking down over half his threes in one off-season is really quite astounding. The Bulls need to find that shooting coach and bring him in.
Anyway, the gap in the bench shooters is the difference in the game. Both teams forced a considerable amount of the game into the hands of the role players, but the Lakers role players stepped up. The Bulls role players did not. That will happen sometimes.
The Bulls did everything I asked them to do against the Lakers. They goaded Ron Artest into trying to shoot the Lakers out of the game. Rose was dominant, and the Bulls front court held it's own. They kept the tempo at their speed and many things went right for the Bulls.
They were in this game up until the 5 minute mark in the fourth quarter when the Lakers went on a there point binge and knocked down four of them over about a one minute stretch, but prior to that, the Bulls fought back from all kinds of Lakers runs and refused to go away.
Unfortunately, the last three point barrage was simply too much.
Overall, the team defense played at a high level, they did a great job on Kobe and Gasol, and what we saw from this game is the Bulls are going to struggle without a second offensive play maker (nothing new there), and that the Lakers are simply really good.
Hopefully the Bulls have something left in the tank for Phoenix today, because their key players expended a lot of energy against the Lakers. Gibson played 40 minutes, Noah 39, and Rose 40. Given that no one else on the team could get anything going whatsoever, that's not surprising, but we'll have to hope it doesn't come back to haunt them tonight.