D-Rose led the Bulls with 29 points in his anticipated matchup with D-Will in the Bulls 91-86 win over the Jazz in Utah, preventing their first losing streak of the season.
The Bulls (35-16) came out much stronger defensively against the Jazz (31-23) in Utah after back-to-back losses for a 91-86 win in a game where neither team ever led by more than eight points. That said, the Bulls started an 8-0 run with six minutes left in the third quarter to create a 66-60 and never lost it.
Two of the indisputable three best point guard in the NBA, Derrick Rose and Deron Williams, were on display and Rose's 29 points came out on top of the struggling Williams and his five turnovers.
Execution was slightly better than the losses to the Warriors and Blazers over the last week, but still inept in many spots. It was the Bulls energetic aggressiveness that forced the turnovers which proved to be the difference in the game while taking care of the basketball on the other end.
The storyline that preceded the game was Carlos Boozer's first return to Utah -- where the taste left in mouths generally ranges from bittersweet to sour -- since leaving the Mormon Beboppers last summer. His lacking performance raises the reasonable argument the crowd or the moment got under his skin to disrupt his performance.
- Aggressiveness on both ends for loose balls kept Utah down. The Bulls scored 15 second-chance points on their 11 offensive rebounds and 14 point off 15 Jazz turnovers that made up for bad shooting (39-for-83, 39.7%) and terrible interior defense.
- The pick-n-roll defense was still shoddy. The Bulls rotated about as bad as they could in their back-to-back losses earlier in the season. In Utah, the frontcourt had more active feet and alertness. That said, Boozer was caught staring at D-Will -- which turned his back to his man -- way too much to allow Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to get the ball wherever they wanted it.
Jefferson was 6-for-7 at the rim and Millsap a perfect 7-for-7. Not having bodies on them when they cut, the Bulls at least refrained from sending Utah to the line.
- Aggressiveness got the Bulls to the line and they hit their FTs. The Jazz were brick-tastic at the FT line -- only 11-for-21 (52.4%) -- while the Bulls shot 20-for-26 (77%).
The Bulls (29.9%) are just under the league average (30.4%) in Free Throw Rate. In Utah, that rate was 31.4% This season, they're 17-7 when that rate is over 30% and that's with the team FT% only .723 (28th in the NBA).
- The Bulls took care of the basketball. Only eight turnovers in a 92-possession game for a great 12% Turnover Rate on the game.
- Why were the Bulls standing around doing nothing so much on offense? There were serious communication problem with Rose manning the point on the floor with Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, Luol Deng never knew where to go, Kyle Korver's timing on screens confused his teammates more than the defense. We've seen this on many choice possessions in almost every game this season, but this pattern was out in full force almost throughout the whole game.
It's no secret that Tom Thibodeau lays out a template and hands almost complete control to Rose on offense. The communication from Rose was some of the worst I've seen from him and directing his teammates' movement has been a strong spot for him this season. It was all just weird to watch.
- Rose's heroics was the Bulls offense. His game-high 29 points -- stealing the show with 11 in the fourth quarter -- came on only 11-for-26 shooting, but he hit all five FTs and 2-of-5 threes. With his seven assists, he scored or assisted 45 of the Bulls total 91 points on the night -- 40 of their 71 from the field -- in a game where only two Bulls scored in double figures.
I'm going to admit that I was very wrong about Rose's intelligence. I haven't written my thought on that here, but have voiced those questions in private discussions with other sportswriters and NBA bloggers. I've been continuously impressed over recent months every time he talks defense, which is not a simple concept to articulate no matter who's the teacher, by any means:
D-Will only finished with 11 points on the game, shooting 5-for-13. Rose kept his body on Deron along the perimeter and did a good job contesting his shots. Williams shot 1-for-4 on long twos for which he clearly didn't want to settle and bricked all three of his long-range attempts. He went 4-for-5 at the rim, largely due to bad interior help. So, to answer questions: yes, Rose can play defense:
- Boozer was captivated by D-Will. Unfortunately, he did that more than play basketball. He scored 14, but only shot 6-for-16 and grabbed only six rebounds in 33 minutes. He just couldn't finish, going only 3-for-8 at the rim, despite being aggressive to get inside. On defense, turning his back on AJ and Millsap largely led to them combining for 46 points.
- Deng, what are you doing? On top of only scoring eight points on 4-for-12 shooting, bricking both of his three-point attempts, and not getting to the line once, he continued to blow many help rotations on defense when the Jazz put the ball on the floor. His man defense was strong, but instead of rotating, his feet are almost glued to the floor on this road trip.
- The Bulls came added a ton of energy that may have been the difference.They outscored Utah's 25-5, grabbed 19 of the Bulls 41 rebounds because -- unlike the Bulls starters -- the Jazz actually missed shots against the bench unit. That said, all of the Jazz starters played at least 36 minutes -- D-Will, AJ, and Andrei Kirilenko with 40, 41, and 42 respective minutes.
- Kurt Thomas was awful. He's big and when his body's there, it's effective. There's just too much motion in Jerry Sloan's offense. And Kurt was limited to a dirty, hacking thug at best.
- Omer only scored four points, going 0-for-1, but got to the line and shot 4-for-6. His one brick, he got the rebound and to the line. That rebound was one of seven in only 15 minutes for a game-high Total Rebounding Rate of 25.2%.
- Taj wasn't so good with the ball, but was second on the team with a 19.2% TRR for the game. He only scored four on 2-for-7 shooting, but was aggressive to go 2-for-3 at the rim, though his jumper couldn't fall. He had five rebounds and a block in his 14 minutes of play.
- Ronnie Brewer's game-winning steal capped off a night of full-throttle energy from him. Despite bricking all four of his shots, he scored six by getting to line to shoot 6-for-8, including the game-clinching FTs after the steal in the final seconds. He added six rebounds in his big hustle effort.
- Besides a stupid long two when he entered the game, C.J. Watson played the game Bulls fans want from him. He pounded the ball inside to score six on 2-for-3 shooting -- including an And-One -- and 2-for-3 at the FT line in only 11 minutes.
- The Bulls are now 13-1 when Keith Bogans scored six or more. He scored seven and hit 2-of-3 threes, but his defense was pretty terrible. Similar to Deng.
- As most do, Korver struggled to get Raja Bell off his ass. He only scored five on 2-for-3 shooting, but hit his only three and it was a big one to kill the Jazz from closing in toward the end.
Not an overall good game, but not an ugly win either. Wednesday was one of those energy wins that are difficult to place because the miscues created the need for heightened entertaining hustle.
Two of the three best point guards will be on display again this Saturday when the Bulls face Chris Paul and the Hornets (32-22) in Nawlins for the last game of this five-game road trip. The Bulls have split the first four games of the trip and are now 12-12 on the road with the Hornets 20-7 at home. That said, they got spanked by the Timberpuppies (13-39) earlier his week in NOLA and to the Nets (16-37) in Jersey on Wednesday, for what it's worth.
The Bulls are still sitting pretty 12.5 games over the Pacers (22-28). The Bulls de facto magic number is three.
Advanced Stats via Hoopdata.