No, Derrick Rose didn't start draining threes like crazy on anyone, but if my math skills are up to par, Derrick was struggling through a 3/16 game through three quarters which likely would have made for one of the worst games of his career if he kept it up. In particular, he kept launching jumper after jumper early in the shot clock and bricking them all.
However, in the fourth quarter, Derrick Rose came alive and drove the ball over and over, making the Denver defense look silly. There's a part of me amazed at his ability to take over the game with the drive and a part of me screaming at him for barely attempting this early in the game, especially given he was 1 for 10 on his first 10 jump shots and was the most athletic player on the floor.
What's important though is that Rose delivered in the end.
Want to know what kind of defender Joakim Noah is? Watch this game
Joakim Noah was absolutely abused by Nene in the first quarter as the Nuggets let him score at will in isolation over Noah where we've seen that Noah's still not strong enough to deal with the really powerful centers who have isolation skills. Why Denver didn't really try to get back to this later is beyond me given that he was 3 of 4 on the night with all three of his baskets coming in the first 6 minutes of the game where he also drew a foul and got to the line.
However, in the fourth quarter, Noah had three blocks and his weak side defense was the key to shutting down the Nuggets offense. He rotated out on Anthony, Billups, Harrington, anyone who dared come into the lane. On top of his three blocks in the fourth quarter, he affected many more shots than that with his presence, and personally, I think the box score has him low in the blocks category.
Noah also struggled through a rough game offensively hitting only 4 of his 11 shots and 5 of 8 of his free throws including splitting a pair that could have all but iced the game if he made both. Still, his energy and defense in the fourth was one of the main reasons the Bulls won the game. Noah's played so well when he throws up a game like this one that it no longer feels like a great game, but just the status quo.
Luol Deng struggled with his threes for time this year
I have to say, I was quite annoyed at the guy behind me complaining all game that Deng can't shoot threes where I wanted to stand up and yell, dude, he was 50% from the three point line on a high volume of attempts this year, let's cut the guy some slack!
However, this game it wasn't working for Deng, and what's most interesting about this is that he missed multiple corner threes which marks the first time I remember him even setting up in the corner. Deng slogged through the game getting worked over by Anthony at times and generally struggled with his efficiency most of the game missing most of his shots and not taking advantage when at the charity stripe by only knocking down 4/7 including two misses as the Bulls were trying to climb back into the game.
It wasn't his bet game, but he still managed to throw up 17 points, 7 boards, and 3 assists which really is pretty good for a poor outing.
Taj Gibson kept this one close early
Taj Gibson just carried the Bulls early on. He was creating his own shot, he was knocking down open jumpers, and he was really giving the Bulls a lift while Rose struggled. However, in the second half, the Bulls rarely went Gibson's way as he only hit two shots, and had numerous turnovers.
Another plus, Gibson's defense came alive this game after struggling on that end (relative to last year) for much of the season. He had five blocks in the game and was a factor all game long in the paint.
After finding his grove early in the season with some open dunks, Taj has gone on to create in the post, knock down jumpers and look like a young Joe Smith / PJ Brown on the court. He's playing at a really high level right now and has really helped the Bulls mitigate the loss of Carlos Boozer.
While it's a thought for another article, it'd be interesting to assess Gibson's trade value.
Keith Bogans says not so fast on that starting job thing
When your big three shoot 17 for 50 on the night someone else has to step up, and along with Taj Gibson, we got quite a bit out of Keith Bogans on offense for the first time this season. Bogans knocked down 4 of 7 shots including 2 of 4 from the three point line and helped the Bulls find some scoring when they weren't getting it anywhere else.
He also played very solid defense and really seemed to settle the Bulls down at times. They simply looked like a better team while he was on the court, and they did so largely due to his contributions rather than just happenstance. I'm not going to get overly excited about Bogans throwing up a good game, but it was great to see him find himself out there a bit more.
Ronnie Brewer continues to improve
Brewer has a terrible +/- on the night largely due to a stretch where Carmel Anthony decided to utterly dominate us. Fortunately, that wasn't at the end of the game. However, Brewer still made a positive impact on the game and the Bulls are getting more comfortable with him the offense and where he likes the ball.
One thing which still upsets me is there was a play where Brewer had the open baseline and his man sleeping on defense. He nods at Watson, who doesn't appear to see him, then he points to the basket to indicate he wants to make the baseline cut for the alley oop. Watson still doesn't see him. After about a full three seconds (which is a basketball eternity) the play closes down and he no longer has the chance to make the cut.
Brewer's out there ready to do his thing, but the Bulls aren't familiar enough with him to find those plays. There's been multiple opportunities for us to see an incredible alley oop throw down to Brewer that the Bulls just haven't seen, and they need to figure out how to take advantage of those chances.
Stop bitching about Watson, you're not getting an upgrade
I know I just ragged on him in the last paragraph, but I just don't expect the greatest court vision out of Watson. If he had Deron Williams court vision then we wouldn't have signed him for $3 million.
However, Watson has played much better recently. His ball handling has gotten much tighter as he hasn't turned the ball over in the past two games. He's making better decisions with the basketball, frequently looking for Korver on the perimeter, but taking his shot when he's open, and his shot is starting to come around.
He'll always be a marked man with fans because the Bulls will always struggle when he's on the court due to the drop off between him and Derrick Rose. It doesn't help that he typically also plays with vastly inferior talent around him as well. However, he's making solid decisions and is playing well. This is what a backup guard in the NBA looks like people, you can't always have the luxury of having your backup be a starting caliber player.
Kyle Korver struggled all game, but knocked down clutch free throws
Korver had numerous open looks in this game that I thought he'd have knocked down for sure, but he just didn't have it going on tonight.
That said, Matt over at blogabull.com said it best on twitter, what a luxury it is to have Korver at the end of the game to knock down those foul shots.
I do have to say I was screaming half the game to get the ball to Korver as the Bulls had him wide open on the three point line several times and failed to get him the pass.
Omer Asik struggled to make an impact this game
His numbers were probably similar to what they've been all year, but frequently his front court defense seems to help the Bulls more than the statistical numbers he puts up there. That really wasn't the case in this game as he looked out of sorts playing against Denver's small lineup.
James Johnson, Brian Scalabrine, and Kurt Thomas get acting jobs as 'Sir-not-appearing-in-this-film'
I noted last game wrap up that it was likely time to figure out a way to get these guys off the court, and Tom Thibodeau made that happen this game. The Bulls really struggled with the deep bench guys playing as a unit contributing in a large way to the past two losses.
In this game, Thibodeau didn't go as deep to his bench and did a better job staggering his starters playing time, and the Bulls never found themselves in that huge hole. The new rotation worked out well, and I'd imagine that the Bulls stick with it.
I complain about the refs a lot, and I was at this game, so I didn't have the benefit of replay, but it sure felt like we had a lot of home cooking in this one. Especially at the end of the game where we were mauling guys who went into the paint. Maybe all those blocks were clean, it's hard to say without replay, but it sure didn't feel like that.
The Bulls did get hosed on a couple calls that they threw up on the jumbotron, but they aren't putting up replays where the Bulls got away with one, and if they were, I have a feeling there would have been a lot of replays up there.
All in all, this was the anti-Celtics game. I thought the Bulls played pretty poorly for most of the game. Derrick Rose was absolutely scary bad through three quarters and Noah wasn't much of a factor in the first half. Deng played pretty lousy and Korver couldn't shoot. Yet, the Bulls managed to scrape by and get a win against a pretty good Denver team.
At 3-3, the Bulls are about where I expected them to be at this point in the season. They've got a couple weaker opponents coming up at home this week, but then they're going to have to head off on the brutal trip and hope for the best.