Memo to Vinny Del Negro: See what happens when you actually let Derrick Rose play in the fourth quarter?
Sorry. I couldn’t resist. But seriously, imagine if Rose had been rooted firmly to the bench (again) instead of scoring 16 of his 22 points in last 12 minutes, including 11 during the final five-and-a-half minute stretch during which the Bulls — who had fallen behind 99-82 — outscored the Rockets 23-3 to pull out a 105-102 victory that was equal parts aggravating and amazing.
It was aggravating in that the Rockets controlled most of the game, thanks largely to Ron Artest, who scored a season-high 32 points on the strength of a career-high six three-pointers. And I have to tell you, Artest’s flamethrowing was the last thing I expected. I mean, this is a guy who’s shooting 39 percent on the season — the second-worst mark of his 10-year career — but he was hitting from everywhere. For 42.5 minutes, anyway.
It was amazing in that the Bulls came from behind in the final minutes after looking so lifeless for most of the game. The other amazing thing is that, despite so regularly giving up huge games to opposing big men, they were able to control Yao Ming, who scored only 17 points (6-for-14) and had almost as many fouls (5) as rebounds (7). And here’s where it gets crazy: Yao took only one shot in the entire second half — a dunk just over one minute into the third quarter. Seriously. Give credit to Brad Miller and his aggressive, fronting defense on Yao, but still…how could the Rockets fail to get their franchise player more involved in the game? That’s usually Chicago’s problem.
The Rockets scored only once in those final minutes — on a 26-footer by Artest — while the Bulls produced points on their final 11 possessions. And when I say “Bulls,” I mostly mean Rose and Ben Gordon (11 points). John Salmons added a free throw with 11 seconds to go, but other than that, it was the Rose and Gordon Show. And what a show it was.
Said Gordon: “We imposed our will on them. It was fun. We kind of caught them by surprise and pounced on them.” It’s fun alright…unless it’s the other team doing the imposing and pouncing, as happened on the road against the Nets and Wizards.
As enjoyable as this win was, though, you can’t count on 23-3 runs at the end of every game. Hopefully the Bulls won’t wait until the last half of the final quarter to get it together next time.
Injuries: Luol Deng had been playing the last few weeks with what he thought was a bad bruise on his right shin. But the pain got so bad that he left last night’s game during the second quarter. X-rays revealed a stress fracture in the tibia that could mean the end of his season. Said Deng: “That’s the worst-case scenario. But we’ll see how bad it is. An MRI should reveal it.” In addition, Tim Thomas was limited to only 7 minutes due o a hyperextended his left knee he suffered in the second quarter. It isn’t thought to be serious.
Player notes: Tyrus Thomas had 19 points (9-for-16), 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals in 28 minutes. Joakim Noah grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds (5 on the offensive end) to go along with his 10 (3-for-7) points and 2 blocked shots. John Salmons — who may end up taking Luol’s place in the starting lineup if Deng gets shelved — scored 12 points (5-for-11) and grabbed 6 boards. Brad Miller added 11 points (4-for-7), 4 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals.
More on Derrick’s bench time: Regarding his recent habit of sitting Rose down the stretch, Vinny said: “The thing with Derrick is people always tend to forget he’s a rookie. He does make mistakes. No question, I have more confidence in Derrick than just about anybody. He’s been fantastic all year. You have to go with the peaks and valleys young players go through.”
Here’s the thing, though, Vinny: Nobody is forgetting that he’s a rookie. People are getting all huffy because he’s your franchise player. You guys will be lucky to make the playoffs. And if you do, barring a miracle, your exit will be early and emphatic. So why not develop Rose than try to scrape up an extra win here or there?
Rose, naturally, is being the bigger man about the situation. “Of course you want to be out there; everyone on the bench does. But the coach puts the players in that he thinks can win the game. That’s what we have to go with. My teammates, we all trust in him.” Really? If you say so, Derrick…
TrueHoop Network: Brody of Rockets Buzz: “Rose outperformed every player on the court over the final stretch and I’m surprised that it took three quarters before he finally started taking shots. I mentioned in the game-log that he spends very little time with the ball setting up plays compared to other point guards. Whether this is a reflection of his humble personality and rookie mentality or he just feels more comfortable playing wing, I believe, remains to be seen. However, if he continues to play like he did in the fourth quarter that question will be answered rather quickly.”