'MVP!. 'MVP!', 'MVP!'. a chant Derrick Rose is very familiar with. However, he got the chants from an unfamiliar source tonight.
Yes, it was a game in Los Angeles, Rose's offseason home, but it was surprising to see the discrepancy between the Chicago Bulls and Clippers fans.
Blake Griffin was looking like the MVP after putting up a 25-point, 6 rebound, and 4 assist first half. He got whatever he wanted inside, and the Bulls played him straight up. Just like they did with Dwight Howard a couple games ago, the Bulls didn't send double coverage on Griffin, instead letting him go to work and containing the supporting cast.
The second half, though, was an entirely different case. Griffin looked tired, and didn't get much help from his supporting cast, either. No one on the Clippers stepped up with Griffin exhausted. He had just 7 points in the second half, shooting 3-of-8 from the field. Overall, Griffin missed 9 of his 13 free-throw attempts, several of them either way short or way off.
One player who wasn't off was Rose. He had two big quarters to start off each half, with 13 points in the first quarter and 12 in the third quarter. No one on the Clippers could even touch Rose tonight -- as he started the game with 3 three-pointers. Ulcers? What ulcers?
Rose also had 11 assists, and shot 11-for-18 from the field. He did a great job finding Luol Deng and Kyle Korver for three's, as the Bulls shot 12-for-26 from three-point land overall.
After the first half, Griffin looked like the best player on the court. But by the end of the game, it was Rose getting the MVP chants.
Let's take a closer look at tonight's win over the Clippers:
What led to the Bulls win
Rose dominated all of the Clippers guards, scoring a game-high 32 points tonight. It was a bit surprising to see Randy Foye getting the bulk of the Rose assignment, as it seemed much more likely that Baron Davis would be the one defending Rose tonight. However, Davis defended Keith Bogans for most of the night, showing how much he's regressed on defense.
We all know about Rose's dominance, but Deng needs to be given plenty of credit for tonight's big win. Deng chipped in 26 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and shot 9-of-17 from the field (3-of-6 on three's). He won't make the NBA All-Star team, but the Bulls' team defense has survived through Joakim Noah's absence largely thanks to Deng.
Defensively, the Bulls did a smart job letting Griffin get his in the first half (25 points). That basically shut down the supporting cast in itself, since they weren't involved in the game. So by the time the second half came around, Griffin was tired, and the cast had no offense going.
What does it signify
The Bulls came into Los Angeles and rolled over a team that had won 9 straight road games despite getting quiet nights from Carlos Boozer, Kurt Thomas, and Ronnie Brewer.
Boozer finished the game with a double-double -- 16 points and 10 rebounds -- however, he also had 4 turnovers, and never really got an offensive rhythm going tonight. It was easy to tell from the outset that this wouldn't be Boozer's night; the Clippers played a lot of zone defense in the second half, and DeAndre Jordan's length bothered Boozer for the most part. It also didn't help that Boozer picked up three fouls in a span of 5 minutes and 20 seconds in the 4th quarter.
Thomas also dealt with foul issues all night, finishing the game with 1 rebound and zero points. He didn't fare well against Griffin, either, as Griffin manhandled him in the first half. Chalk it up as an off night for the 38-year-old, without him the Bulls wouldn't be 20 games over .500 (34-14).
Brewer, who's been Mr. Energy all season, had an invisible night. He didn't score in 17 minutes tonight, and didn't do a good job spacing the floor for the Bulls when the Clippers went zone in the second half. It's been a while since Bogans (20 minutes) played more minutes than Brewer, hasn't it?
With Thomas in foul trouble most of the game and Boozer being pretty much ineffective, who was going to guard Griffin? Taj Gibson.
And boy did Gibson come through. He scored just 9 points, but had 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal. The last time Gibson had over 10 rebounds was January 4th against the Toronto Raptors (14).
Gibson has been nursing an ankle injury this week after injuring it against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, however, he looked quick defensively and was by far the most effective option the Bulls had on Griffin.
With a coach who preaches defense, what better than to have your sixth man a defensive specialist? That's exactly what Gibson is.
Although the Clippers stand at 19-29 after tonight, it was a very impressive win for the Bulls. The Clippers have been a good home team, recently beating the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. However, the Bulls played well from the get-go, and had total command throughout the night.
Griffin's final numbers -- 32 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists -- look scary good, but he didn't do much in the second half. Rose, on the other hand, coasted tonight. He never forced the issue, yet he controlled the pace of the game and dominated every Clipper guard to defend him.
February 5th: Bulls (34-14) at Golden State Warriors (20-27). 9:30pm C.S.T. WGN/WGN America/ESPN 1000
The Warriors are another team that plays much better on the home than on the road, but unlike the Clippers, they have a very potent lineup and offense all around.
Here's a stat that might be surprising to some: the Warriors rank higher than the Bulls in several key offensive categories, such as points, FG%, and three-point percentage. However, the same can be said for defense, in the Bulls' favor.
The Bulls got off to a good start against the Clippers tonight, but the road gets tougher as the trip goes on. It will be a classic case of good offense versus good defense against the Warriors. Just the test the Bulls need.