Well other than that how was the play Mrs. Lincoln? That’s sort of the story last night as Derrick Rose tweaked his hamstring on a late drive to the basket against the Cavaliers. The Cavaliers came back out, and Rose was on the court for the next play but was then sent to the bench for the remaining three minutes while the Bulls clung to a seven point lead.
Chicago closed out the Cavaliers fine. The seven point lead stretching out to 15 before the game ended. It was the reverse of the Indiana Pacers game and felt good to watch the Bulls pull away [even without Rose] rather than get sucked back in.
The Bulls had led comfortably for most of the game, but the Cavs pushed it down to one point after a strong third and a good start to the fourth. Then their shooting went cold and both teams seemed to go an eternity without scoring. Eventually the Bulls got back on track and pulled away.
Mike Dunleavy played a huge role in the win for Chicago as he closed out the game with 10 points, two assists, three boards, and a steal in the fourth quarter alone. He missed just one shot, a wide open three that had Bulls fans groaning, but came through big time when the Bulls needed him.
He drew a rather ridiculous three shot foul by diving into a jumping player, knocked down all three free throws, and jolted the Bulls offense. It wasn’t pretty, but the team had been struggling to score, and it generated some points.
With memories of Nate Robinson in their head, fans had largely railed against the Dunleavy signing, especially after a slow start. It was good to see Dunleavy play well during big moments and really key a win for the Bulls.
Derrick Rose allayed two concerns before leaving the game
While most of the talk will center around Rose’s right hamstring which according to Thibodeau “appeared minor” after the game, I don’t want to lose sight of two important facts about Rose’s performance.
First, Derrick had his first game where his turnovers were truly under control  and had seven assists to boot. He still kept jump passing for no apparent reason and had a couple passes sail on him, but not so high that they flew out of bounds.
Given that Irving has quick hands and plenty of speed, it was a nice to see Derrick keep control of the ball all game. He racked up seven assists on the night as well which is more in line with his normal performance.
Worth noting that dismal team play was hurting his assists as much or more so than his passing in previous games though.
The second is Rose played very solid defense on Kyrie Irving for most of the game. He largely stayed in front of Irving or funneled him into Joakim Noah and forced Irving into a poor shooting night at just 5/19 from the field.
On offense, Rose’s 8/21 isn’t good, but wouldn’t have been so bad except for the fact that he didn’t make it to the free throw line at all. Typically if Rose takes 21 shots he’s probably got a good eight free throws to go with it. If he had knocked down seven FTs then 8/21 for 23 points wouldn’t seem so bad.
As it stands 16 points on 21 looks isn’t such a good night on offense for Rose. Derrick looked pretty one directional while driving tonight. He hit several circus shots in the lane, but he largely knocked those down when there was a seam he could attack in a straight line.
I think his lack of free throws were more due to the defense remaining stationary while guarding him and Rose drawing contact by diving into non moving players. He needs to force the defense to move more while drawing contact in order to get the calls.
The big thing with Rose will obviously be the hamstring. Even a minor hamstring injury could nag him for quite some time and potentially cause compensatory injuries if it’s bad enough. The Bulls also don’t have a lot of depth in terms of guys who create shots, so they’ll be hurt without Derrick more this year than when they had Nate Robinson coming off the bench.
Chicago does have three days off, so if the injury is truly just a tweak, Rose may not miss any time. I’m sure we’ll find out more today.
Luol Deng 1/18 from the three point line
How’s this for cringe worthy synergy. Luol Deng ended last season’s playoffs 1/18 from the three point line and starts out this season with the same stat.
I don’t know what happened to Luol Deng’s shot, but it isn’t pretty. He’s also only knocked down 40% of his limited free throw attempts (4/10) and is shooting less than 40% from the field.
Yeah, Deng almost had a triple double against the worst team in the NBA, but he’s kind of been awful the rest of the season, and while not alone in that regard, 1/18 from beyond the arc is a special kind of awful for a guy you expect to shoot in the mid 30s percentage wise from there.
Jimmy Butler’s not a shooting guard
Anyone else notice this? Jimmy Butler broke out largely while Deng wasn’t on the court with him. The two together have not meshed well and Butler looks far more comfortable at SF than shooting guard.
The thing is when Butler’s defended by a bigger player his quickness is more of a strength, his pedestrian ball handling less a liability. Butler’s not able to use his size for significant advantage on offense at the two, and loses much of what made him a quality player against guys who can more easily stay in front of him and stop him from attacking off the dribble.
His shooting percentages and confidence both seem way down this year. If you played a drinking game and took a shot for every time Butler passed up a wide open three to dribble into a worse position, you’d be wasted before the second quarter started.
I’ll probably write more about it later, but it looks clear to me that playing Butler and Deng together isn’t a good long term plan, and I’d expect that means Deng is out of here at the end of the season [which I expected anyway].
The Booz cruise keeps rolling
Hate on Boozer all you want, but Carlos keeps getting it done on offense. Another big night with great percentages even if there were a couple cringe worthy defensive plays like where he actually let a rebound bounce in front of him and had it picked up by a Cavaliers player late in the game.
For all of the negatives, the Bulls need Boozer’s offense and unlikely many moments in the past, Boozer’s delivering very high quality, high efficiency offense right now. I’m more than willing to live with his deficiencies while he’s shooting over 60% from the field, especially when virtually everyone else is shooting a cringe worthy percentage.
Joakim Noah rides the pine at the end
Joakim had a decent game, but when he picked up his fifth foul on a stupid retaliation play, he was sent to the bench for good. Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer have been the Bulls two best players this season, and Thibodeau elected to go with the pair to close out the game.
The plan worked out just fine as the Bulls pulled away for an easy win.
That said, it wasn’t all negative for Joakim, he knocked down four of five shots which was the first efficient offensive game he’s had this season. Joakim is looking closer and closer to the guy we all love.
Most of his hustle stats are still off the charts, and his offense is coming around. He looks more in control off the dribble and more in tune with the team. While Joakim isn’t the biggest center piece of the offense, once he’s fully in sync with everyone else I expect a considerable boost to the team offense.
His passing provides plenty of opportunities for others, and while he’s not a dominant player in the paint he still forces double teams when he gets in there and then passes well out of them.
Taj continues his strong play
Taj Gibson looks like a new man this season. He looks refreshed, polished, and is playing at a high level. Taj is a starting caliber PF right now, and the Bulls need to find a way to get him on the court more than they do.
It was nice to see him close out the game, and if Carlos keeps playing this well then the Gibson/Boozer lineup is one we’ll see plenty more of. The Bulls got a big boost when they went to the bench in this game, and Gibson’s a big reason why.
Now we’ll just hope for health
Stacey King and Neil Funk bizarrely refused to acknowledge the injury at all. The twitter reaction was panic-ridden. Thibodeau, who couldn’t know much at the time anyway, said it appeared minor.
Fans will simply now collectively hold their breath and wait to see the prognosis. However, I’m not overly concerned. Even if Rose were to miss a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury, it’s not a long term problem.
It certainly darkens the mood a bit and sets up more fears that Rose may simply be more injury prone now, but in the end, we need players healthy in May. This injury doesn’t look to be a long term one.