Derrick Rose went off for a career-best 44 points in the Bulls' 99-82 win in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead over the Hawks in Atlanta. It's the most points scored like a Bull in the playoffs since Michael Jordan hit the championship-clincher in the 1998 Finals. Fitting.
Rose came out on his still-sprained ankle and exploded in his forward motion, continued to shoot when the Atlanta D sagged off, and moved the ball well without passing to the wrong team. All in all, his career-high 44 points (regular season and playoffs) came in bunched that screamed, "UNSTOPPABLE!" with 17 in the first quarter on 7-for-10, 13 in the third on 4-for-9 with a trey and 4-for-5 at the line, and ten in the fourth to put the start shoveling dirt on Atlanta. Overall, he shot 16-for-27 on the game, 4-for-7 from 3-point range, and finally got to the line to go 8-for-9 to go with seven assists and five rebounds. His dominance of the ball (50.5% usage) was most valuable in that it allowed his teammates to rest on offense, so maximum energy was available to continue pounding the Hawks on the defensive end. He only turned the ball over twice for a microscopic 6.1% turnover rate.
"I'm just pushing it," Brenda Rose's pride and joy said after the game. "Trying to go for a faster pace.... We just made sure our turnovers were low and we played team basketball."
It takes a lot to be unstoppable in the NBA. Players can show and recover as far out as halfcourt. Doubles are constant, welcomed, and efficient when executed correctly. And you're talking about players, often with up to ten inches of height advantage and even more length contesting at the rim (though Rose is certainly taller than many guards). There a way to stop 99% of all NBA players, even the elite ones.[...]What are you going to do if Rose is hitting 10-18 on jumpers? You can't close on him, he gets to the rim faster than your rotation, and can explode to get airborne from nearly the elbow. You have to hope he misses. Instead, Rose buried the Hawks with more range shots than layups. The Hawks clearly weren't expecting it and, with his quick release, there wasn't any way for them to close. Rose's jumper isn't always going to be there. But it's going to be there on nights like Game 3, and when it is, the Bulls, for all their offensive weaknesses (which are numerous), are a juggernaut.The Hawks could have played better on offense, with better passing, less dribbling, the same things we always say about them. They could have hit the glass harder, gotten better bench production, got out in transition more. And it probably wouldn't have changed the final result, only the margin of victory.
Rose doesn't want to talk about his ankle anymore, says it's fine, but there's still a little lacking. He's strong and fast and came out with an explosion, but his lateral movements to change directions is still limited. Teague exploited this pretty well on offense, but the Hawks never used traps to cut off angles to exploit this and Rose exploited their risk-aversive defense. So, the ankle is fine, but the team still has the task of moving more off the ball and helping more aggressively than would be normally needed.