Rose's Needlessly Controversial 32 Shots in Game 4

Rose's Needlessly Controversial 32 Shots in Game 4

The OMG-the-point-guard-took-32-shots meme directed toward Derrick Rose is in full effect. It has its place in the basketball conversation, but implies him as a destructive force to his own team with more reasonable doubt than is presented.

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Derrick Rose's 32 shots in Game 4 have generated controversy, only because the #1-seed Bulls lost, and their series against the East's #5-seed is reduced to a best-of-three. No one's actually got the balls to say Rose "shot the Bulls out of the game," though, and there's a reason for that: he didn't take shots away from a better player. Until you're ready to show where his teammates are creating opportunities off the ball and he's ignoring them, the narrative is useless.

That said, it's worth scrutinizing, as only three other players have dominated the ball to attempt 30 shots in a game with 10-plus assists and they both also lost (ESPNChicago.com). But Rose's 47.1% usage rate was actually less in Game 4 than the 50.5% he posted in the 44-point Game 3 where everyone said he was amazing and deserved statues and trophies and billboards and blowjobs and shit.

The difference: Game 4 was a 92-possession game and Game 3 was a slower 82 (Hoopdata). The Bulls are a talented bunch with offensive weapons, but he's dominating the ball more than Kobe Bryant or LeBron James ever have (Tom Ziller, SBNation) because he has to.

"When he's making the plays and scoring, everyone is saying how great he is," Tom Thibodeau said on Monday (K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune). "He was aggressive. I didn't have any problem with the way he played. He kept driving."

Biggest differences between Games 4 and 3: (1) Rose took it to the basket, instead of taking 3-pointers and long-2s, which is great; and (2) the Hawks frontcourt applied some amazing help defense, by setting his feet and contesting Rose's penetration without whacking him to keep Rose from beating them at the FT line, which is worthy of applause toward Atlanta. Throw in the Bulls shooting less than the insane 50% on 3s and the game looks uglier.

I'm with Matt McHale on this, who wrote in his recap (By the Horns):

Everybody is at fault. Thibs is at fault for not running more plays that get players other than Rose good looks. Rose's teammates are at fault for not being more aggressive, getting open, and calling for the ball. And Rose is at fault for not generating more offense for the other guys wearing red jerseys.
As I mentioned in the recap of the game, Rose's misses aren't all created equal as possession-killers because the offense is designed for him to get trailed by a rebounder and for the bigs to crash the boards hard. The NBA's "Play of the Day" went to a play where Rose's teammates -- notably Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer -- stood around and watched him, then, never boxed out to get an offensive rebound, so Rose followed his shot and slammed it home:

The Bulls grabbed offensive rebounds at a strong .293 rate, but only converted for ten second chance points. Boozer had a strong game with the ball in his hands, but Al Horford and Josh Smith did a pretty damn good job in the fourth quarter to deny those hands from getting that ball. I'm not repeating the stat-lines of the shooters who bricked 3-pointers like the rim was a rigged carnival booth, nor am I giving Rose a pass, as Johnson added:

ESPN Stats and Information released this intriguing statistic: On 25 possessions, Rose never passed after crossing halfcourt or receiving an inbounds pass. On those, Rose shot 7-for-22 and drew three fouls, scoring 21 points.
On the other hand, Rose after passing went 5-for-10 and scored 13 points and assisted on 22 other points.
The Bulls struggled badly from beyond the arc again, going just 3-for-16. Kyle Korver's shot was off. So was Luol Deng's. And the Bulls are at their best when Rose is aggressive.
Rose did finish with 10 assists on a night the Bulls shot just 41 percent. And it's not like the Bulls will change their reliance on Rose at this stage.

Did Rose get ten assists, despite his teammates shooting .435 (20-for-46) from the floor and brick 11-of-13 3-pointers? Yes. Should he have passed more for Noah, Boozer, or Korver to man the point while Rose creates off the ball? Definitely. Did Rose significantly alter the outcome of the game by shooting too much? I dare you to say yes with alternative options that don't point the finger at his coach and teammates, save it for the Russell Westbrook conversations. (And even those are letting Kevin Durant off the hook.)

According to Basketball-Reference: Rose only took 30-plus shots in two other games this season -- both before December and one was an overtime win. He took 25 shots in only 15 games this season and the Bulls lost seven of those. He's done so in five of the Bulls' playoffs games this year, including both of their losses. But correlation does not prove causation.
Forming the conclusion that Rose's shot volume caused the losses requires proving a viable alternative with the flows and situations of those games. The Bulls offense has everyone but Rose standing around a lot, fulfilling the unspoken axiom that optimal basketball has the team 'expending energy on defense, while resting on offense.' The nights when this is taken to the extreme, Rose is left out to dry on an island with his teammates taking breathers and enjoying the show.
I'm the first person to kick, scream, and curse when Rose is chucking too many jumpers, not executing the pick n' roll well, or not getting to the FT line, but Rose's volume is not the mistake. The execution of the Bulls' offense, led by Rose, is a part of the mistake. The tactics used by Bulls players off the ball to participate in the possession are a larger part of the problem. The strategy employed by Thibs not creating better movement, offensive spacing, and easier buckets is the larger problem.
Seeing as Thibs has showed that he values playing inside-out, has a great spatial approach to the full court, is one of the better game-planners on the NBA sidelines, and his players buy into whatever he plans for them, I'm not concerned.
And for this, I remind myself of the Scott Skiles-Vinny Del Negro Hells that are over and feel grateful.

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  • You're right on. It was interesting to watch Sir Charles last night say Derrick, or any point guard, shouldn't be taking 30 shots. He likened it to Westbrook. But as Chris Webber and Kenny Smith told him last night, Derrick Rose doesn't have Kevin Durant on his side as Westbrook does. It's that easy.

    The Bulls have had good balance throughout the season, and have relied on guys like Kyle Korver coming through in the fourth. It's weird, because if you told me Korver would be a go-to-guy earlier this season, I would have laughed at you. But that's exactly what he is -- the Bulls love using him off screens. When they want to spread the load, it's usually going to Kyle. He simply couldn't get it going last night, missing seven of eight shots. Deng missed nine of 14 shots. Boozer hit seven of 10, but with the way he's played lately, is really an option in the fourth to get a bucket?

  • Most of his shots were in the paint...i would say those are good shots especially coming from the MVP in the league. If Rose was chucking 3's last night then ok...he was taking bad shots but he wasnt. When he misses layups, he draws so much attention that we get a lot of offensive boards off of those, his shots were high percentage shots in the paint, when he shoots he draws fouls, or he just makes it. Plus, who the hell else was scoring last night? If we gave it to Boozer, and he missed....we would all be pissed because Rose didnt shoot it. Bulls played bad defense...thats why we lost.

  • He was in the lane the whole game. I think he missed a handful of layups he usually makes and probably deserved another 6-8 free throws but didn't get the calls (although, I thought the Bulls got plenty of those really). I agree that the bigger issue was that the bigs weren't nearly as aggressive on the offensive boards and there was zero movement off the ball for most of the 4th quarter. I think with as bad as the wing players were, they may have wanted Derrick to just take over honestly.

    Let's hope these things are all corrected tonight. I think the defense will return to form and a good offensive showing should be enough.

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