Game 21 Recap: Bull 88, Lakers 84

Going into last night’s game against the Lakers, I was mad.

In case you missed it, there was a post about Derrick Rose on TrueHoop yesterday. It highlighted a recent post on HoopSpeak in which bloggers Beckley Mason and Ethan Sherwood Strauss took pot shots at everything from Rose’s personality (or, in their view, his lack thereof) to his performance in that classic Bulls-Celtics playoff series from Derrick’s rookie season (they basically downrate his performance).

The TrueHoop post then goes on to quote ESPN’s John Hollinger, who attacks a familiar subject, namely Rose’s relative lack of free throw attempts. Based on that fact, Hollinger has decided that Rose — get this — is not an elite point guard.

Said Hollinger: “It seems mundane, as though we’re nitpicking, to bemoan Rose’s lack of free throws, but it’s a notable shortcoming when comparing Rose to the other elite players at his position. Until he earns more whistles, Rose won’t ascend to the top of the league’s point guard mountain.”

Hollinger’s research is meaningful because the raw data can be misleading. After all, Rose’s 5.5 free throw attempts per game puts him ahead of Chris Paul (4.5 this season), Steve Nash (4.6 this season and 2.8 for his career) and Rajon Rondo (2.1 this season and 2.8 for his carerer). However, Rose takes more shots than those guys. And he attacks the rim much more often. Yet he earns fewer foul shots per field goal attempt than 32 of the league’s 62 qualifying point guards. That includes his backup, C.J. Watson.

You can look at this a lot of ways — Bulls fans would tell you he doesn’t get some of the calls he deserves — but the reality seems to be that Derrick is too fast, strong and insanely athletic for his own good.

But still…denying Rose “elite point guard” status based on the unconventional nature of his game? Why not look at the results? The guys at HoopSpeak paid lip service to doing this: “These Bulls munch cud to the tune of 12-8. The lineup looks impeccable and some experts prefer them to the Heat, Celtics or Magic. But we haven’t seen success yet. It only feels imminent.”

Of course — in their rush to write creative analogies — Mason and Strauss very conveniently failed to provide any context. For instance, when considering Chicago’s win-loss record, did they happen to mention that Carlos Boozer missed the first 15 games of the season and is still getting into playing shape? That the Bulls have had to endure a killer early schedule that included their annual seven-game circus road trip? Or that they finished with the first plus-.500 record on that road trip since the Michael Jordan era mostly because Rose was going nuts, scoring 30 or more points in five of the six games he played (he missed the game at Denver due to neck spasms)?

Now consider the Bulls’ schedule-to-date.

I’m not just talking about the road trip. I’m talking about the competition.

In their first 21 games, they’ve played the defending champion Lakers twice. They’ve also played the defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics twice…both times in Boston. They’ve played the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder twice each. They’ve also had road games against the San Antonio Spurs (who have the best record in the league) and the Dallas Mavericks (who are 18-4 and on an 11-game winning streak).

In fact, the last team to beat the Mavs? Da Bulls.

Oh, and they’ve played the Orlando Magic, too.

Heck, I might as well throw their game against the New York Knicks in there, considering the Knicks have won seven in a row — and 12 of 13 overall — and suddenly look like a force.

In fact, if you check out Hollinger’s power rankings, you’ll notice that, so far this season, the Bulls have had the hardest strength of schedule in the league. That kind of mitigates the win-loss record, right? By comparison, the Spurs — who, again, have the league’s best record — rank 20th in strength of schedule.

Perspective matters.

Maybe I should cut Hollinger and the HoopSpeak guys some slack. I follow the Bulls on a daily basis. Presumably, they don’t. Which means they have to gauge Rose and his ability based on statistical indicators and snapshot views provided by whichever Bulls games they manage to see.

Well, I hope they saw last night’s game. If they did, maybe they’ll have a better understanding of what Derrick Rose is all about. Kobe Bryant had that understanding going in. This is what Bryant said about Rose on Thursday:

“I can tell when a player truly wants to be better and does what it takes to improve. It was a quality I had when I was growing up. … I admire that about him. I could really see it from last year to this year. He’s got a long-range ball now. He can pop behind the pick and shoot the jumper. He can pull up off the dribble and shoot it, and him getting to the rim goes unquestioned. He’s putting the time in the gym, and I certainly respect that.”

Kobe sees what I’ve seen.

Derrick Rose is 22 years old. This is his third season in the NBA. Sure, he was the number one overall pick back in the 2008 NBA Draft, but he was pretty raw and had various holes in his game. Yet he’s gotten better every single season. He’s addressed the gaps in his skill set. His three-point shooting isn’t great, but he’s converting 38 percent of his triples, and that’s not bad. His 8.2 APG is up from 6.0 last season. His defense has improved. He may not make the All-Defensive team, but both his Block and Steal Percentages have gone up while his Defensive Rating has gone down. And guys aren’t just walking around him the way they used to.

This kid has gotten nothing but better. And he’s going to keep doing it.

Of course, when the United Center crowd starts chanting “M-V-P!” for Rose — as they did last night — it serves as a reminder that, as good as he may become, Rose is already pretty great.

His night included game-highs in points (29) and assists (9). He went 12-for-25 from the field and 3-for-5 from beyong the arc. (Naturally, he went only 2-for-4 from the line.) Most important were his nine fourth quarter points. And it wasn’t just that he was hitting shots. He was hitting tough shots. Shots that seem to give rude hand gestures to the Laws of Physics. For example:

Oh yeah. He shrugged.

(I’m going to show this video the next time somebody claims Rose has no personality. I think people tend to misunderstand his quiet demeanor, which is more a product of his natural humility than a true dearth of charisma.)

Later, with 25 seconds left, the Bulls clinging to a three-point lead, and the shot clock about to expire, Rose ran circles aound grinding defense before nailing a 14-footer that virtually sealed the deal.

This kid is special. He’s amazing.

No, he doesn’t get to the line as much as his coaches, his fans, and the experts would like. But make no mistake about it: This kid is a rising superstar.

Other notables:

Carlos Boozer had a modest double-double with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. However, I got the feeling Boozington (as Joakim Noah calls him) wanted more shots. The Bulls didn’t always do a good job of finding him when he was open last night. In fact, there were times when, due to a switch, he had a smaller player (such as Derek Fisher) on him and the Bulls failed to exploit the mismatch. Eh, work in progress.

Noah (3-for-10, 9 points, 9 rebounds, no blocks or steals) had a rough game versus Pau Gasol (21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocked shots). That’ll happen. Still, Jo anchored a Bulls defense that held the Lakers to 83 points on 43 percent shooting. Plus, he got more physical with Gasol after Pau dropped 10 points on him in the first quarter. And it had an effect.

Said Phil Jackson: “They got physical with him and Pau got disconcerted. He started worrying about whether he was getting fouled or not. It changed how he played.”

Luol Deng had another quietly efficient night: 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting.

Keith Bogans needs to come off the bench. Bogans finished with zero points on 0-for-3 shooting (all on threes) and the Bulls were -16 during his 11 minutes on the floor. Look, it’s time to start Ronnie Brewer, who by comparison played 24 minutes, went 6-for-6 from the line, and finished with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals an assist and a block. The Bulls were +6 with Ronnie in the game.

Kyle Korver could also start at the shooting guard position. Korver once again provided a scoring spark off the bench, going 3-for-6 from beyond the arc — including a huge three-pointer in the fourth — and contributing 13 points to the winning cause. And if you’re wondering whether Chicago’s offense runs more smoothly when his presence is spreading out the opposing defense, note his game-high plus-minu score of +11.

Taj Gibson is slowly withering away on the bench. Last night’s performance — 12 minutes, 0-for-4, zero points — was the continuation of his downward trend since Boozer returned. In his last five games, Taj is averaging 5.2 PPG on 9-for-27 shooting (33 percent). He’s finding that life was much easier for him while playing with the other starters.

Quote of the night:
Said Rose: “I’m not a star. I just play in the NBA. I’m just trying to do anything to get my team the win, go out there and get wins. And that’s passing the ball or doing whatever. But you can see the difference between a star and a superstar, especially in this league where superstars like Kobe and all the other players, there’s only a [small] amount of them. Where they can take over games and do it on a consistent basis.”

Almost quote of the night:
Said Noah: “It’s feels great because a lot of people were saying … I had never beat The Lake Show before. So beating the Lake Show, if you say is just another game on the schedule, that’s a lie. That’s what coaches say. As players, that’s not true. They’re back to back champs. It was a great atmosphere in there and it’s always a good feeling to beat the Lake Show.”

Bonus highlight:

Bonus stat:
From ESPN Stats and Information: “The Bulls have been very impressive against Western Conference teams this season. In fact 10 of their 13 wins this season are against the West. That .714 win percentage against the WEST is best among teams in the EAST.”

TrueHoop Network:
Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold: “In the end though, this game resembled so many of the other recent Lakers’ losses. The Lakers shooting isn’t what it was to start the season and their big men tire down the stretch. This leads to poor offensive execution and too many defensive possessions where interior rotations are slow (or non existent) and defensive rebounds aren’t corralled.”

Nick Friedell: “Rose may not consider himself a star just yet, but almost everyone else does. That’s why the United Center repeatedly serenaded him with ‘MVP’ chants throughout the night. Like he said, only a few players can take over games at the end — he’s one of them. No, he’s not on Bryant’s level yet (no one is right now) and no, a torch was not passed on Friday night. But, Rose yet again proved that he has elevated his game to yet another level, one that frightens the rest of the league.”

Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

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21 Responses to Game 21 Recap: Bull 88, Lakers 84

  1. TBF December 11, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

    Unsung hero of the night? Definitely Luol Deng. He shot great from the field, buried the 3 when he had a chance to and play *great* defense against Kobe. I am loving Luol as a 3rd option for this team. He just seems so much more comfortable when he can fly under the radar, hit a few open shots and layups, play solid fundamentally, and chip in towards the team effort. He’s very efficient and can grab us 15 points a night without demanding the ball.

    Bogans needs to stay on the bench and be the back of the guard rotation. His plus/minus was just embarassing. Has anyone noticed the dreadful starts we seems to have in the 1st and 3rd quarters? I wonder if that could be because we have Bogans in there then? Hmmmm…It’s just horrendous. I don’t care what anyone says, his defense *isn’t* elite and whatever skill he has there just doesn’t make up for his stankiness elsewhere. His offense is so bad that Kobe wasn’t even *trying* to guard him. All 3 of his 3’s last night were wide open, like no one else was in the gym. He missed them all. I guarantee Korver knocks down at least 2 of them in his sleep. Hell, Omir Asik probably could have hit at least one of them, that’s how wide open they were. He needs to be on the bench next to Scalabrine.

    Omir Asik did a half-way decent job on Gasol. I expected Gasol to eat his lunch, but he didn’t play half bad. He desperately needs to get stronger though. He’s gonna have some game once he spends a full season in the NBA and a full off season in an NBA strength program. He’s raw, but I think the talent’s definitely there.

    Boozington (for the record, that’s a cool nickname) wanted the ball more than he got it and when the Bulls fed it to him down low, good things started happening. Like open Derrick Rose 3’s. When the Bulls needed to stabilize on offense, Boozer came up money.

    blackfujones December 11, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    *puts on swimming cap* Im diving right in on the obvious thrashing of D.Rose…

    Im only 30 yrs old yet have been watching bball since we had a model floor rca tv with a 13″black n white sitting on top with aluminum foil for an antenna. With that said Ive never seen a more humble, cool nba player with so much riding on him ever in my short nba watching history. Yet, for some odd reason people from other cities which include: the hardcore nba fans/casual nba fans/media who bash this kid. And for the life of me I cant see WHY!

    He works his tail off year round as if playing NBA basketball was his job… is his freaking job! You’ve never seen him take a night off whatsoever. Humble/respectful/thankful for every opportunity that he’s gotten in this league, yet in still they cast stones.

    Im with you McHale…the absolute marbles of Mason and Sherwood to take pot shots at his shy demeanor? Come on that what our nba hoops have come to? A damn reality show, as if we’ve all taken our talents to South Beach? And of course Hollinger with his fantasy garbage numbers. We all in our own rights know bball to a degree. And we all can tell that this damn kid is just physically gifted, both mentally and physically on the bball court hands down. He simply is that much better than everyone on the court that its easy to him to go around/above/underneath/the side/kitty korner anyway you wanna put it he can do it in regards to getting to the basket.
    We dont nitpick on chris paul for gambling on steals too much(but yet hes the best pg) or rondo for shooting an abysmal 50% from the ft line, or not being able to hit a 10ft jumpshot(which is absolutely TURRIBLE!)

    Quite frankly what we’re watching from this young kid(he still is 22 correct! ha!)is maturation at its finest. And i see nothing but upside from here on out!

    *hops out the water and grabs a towel!

  3. Inception December 11, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    it’s amazing how many wins Rose is single-handedly responsible for…those clutch performances are piling up thus far…def a top 3 candidate for MVP this year up to this point

    i agree with the lack of shot opportunities from Boozer, but i’m sure Thibs will look at the tape and harp on it…this team will not go anywhere w/o Boozer’s help…we have to at least get 18-20 ppg and 8-10 rpg from him in order to go deep in the playoffs.

    Deng seems to show up when the pressure is not on him…keep it up…Taj doesn’t look like a good sixth man…if this keeps up, i say trade him…Korver is chi’s sixth man of the year so far…so crucial.

    Luke December 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    Wow, those two guys from truehoop or whatever are a joke. That Ethan guy graduated from UofC-Berkley, and majored in History. They sound like a bunch of potheads who write to try and prove they are smarter than everyone else… what a joke. Can’t believe legit journalists are referencing them…. that’s like Obama referencing a Colbert joke in a serious conversation

  5. PDZ December 11, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    Nice work man.

    I read the hollinger article yesterday, which was complete garbage. This guy wouldnt know if it were warm or cold outside unless he studied a thermometer.

    Also, I’m not a fan of strauss or mason, ive seen some of their chats and theyre basically cutesie giggle fests, and bad f’n jokes, like some high school kids pulling each other’s nipples.

  6. Richard December 11, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

    As an engineer, I can tell you that John Hollinger’s “statistical” analyses are very faulty.

    BoppinBob December 11, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

    I am getting pissed at the raving about the Heat. Yes they are 16-8, but the combined records of their opponents is 263-281. Yes, they are on a seven game winning streak against opponents with a combined record of 69-92. On the other hand the beloved Bulls are 13-8 against opponents with a 267-207 combined record. And the 1st 15 games were without Boozer, their number 2 man. The Bulls are 5-2 in their last 7 games against opponents with a combined 85-71 record.

    Maybe Rose is so fast and agile that defenders don’t have time to foul him. Maybe the refs are right he is not being fouled. In which case that would mean that he is one of the best slashers to ever play the game at 22 years old. The scary part about that is the defenders may decide that the only way to stop him is with hard fouls which could lead to injuries. I have been hesitant to apply the label of superstar to DRose in the past, but if he continues to score, dish, defend,finish and hit 3’s the way he has so far this season there will be no other way to describe him.

    Don’t worry about Taj, in his 13 minutes last night he had 5 rebounds and a steal (probably crucial in a 4 point win). It will take him time to adjust to not being a starter, remember he has been starting most of last year and this season. He is a player and will deliver what is needed of him in the long run.

    A Crog December 11, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    I think everyone needs to sit back a relax for a bit. If you read the article, they really just say that they prefer Chris Paul type of point guards. Furthermore, they point out that he doesn’t get to the line as often as he should. There are a lot of reasons why I like Rose and a lot of excuses that I can make for his deficiencies (perceived or otherwise), but excuses won’t make him an efficient basketball player.

    An almost identical scenario played out a year ago, in which a blogger criticized Durant’s terrible +/- numbers. Durant and his defenders got upset, but the fact remained that Durant was a bad defender and took too many shots. Fortunately, Durant corrected these flaws in his game and went on to lead the league in scoring. In short, we can’t ignore the points made by Hollinger, Sherwood, and Mason just because we’re Bulls fans. Thankfully, Rose has shown that he’s the type of player who won’t ignore these problems either.

    Tony C. December 11, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    Along the lines of the point which I made in an earlier post, there is no reason to take these dogmatic, stat-based criticisms too seriously. What such critics are failing to take into account, for example, is that Rose gets off better shots around the rim, and makes a higher percentage of them, than (perhaps) any guard in the history of the game.

    What that means, in practical terms, is that while Rose may be shooting a lower number of free-throws relative to other aggressive drivers (e.g. Westbrook), he is scoring at a higher rate around the rim.

    I don’t see any reason to believe that this is a serious net negative. I also suspect that Rose will get more calls going his way as respect for him as a player continues to grow, and as the refs digest (even if sub-consciously) the implications of all of this chatter.

    A Crog December 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    In response to Tony C., I agree with your argument with respect to Rose’s scoring totals. If he’s scoring at a higher rate around the rim, it doesn’t matter that he’s not getting to the line. However, drawing fouls has added benefits that make them more valuable to just scoring, namely getting the opposing team in foul trouble. Even if Rose’s individual PPG is roughly equivalent to what it would be if he drew more fouls but missed more shots, team scoring may be down because opposing teams are never have to take key defenders out for more minutes.

    Lastly, Rose is now past the point where he needs respect from refs to get foul calls. Players draw fouls through guile (like Paul Pierce), clumsiness (like Dwight Howard), or bullishness (like Westbrook). Rose’s game is unique in that he’s fast and agile enough to never get fouled if he doesn’t want to. He would be less appealing to watch, but this agility means that he could draw a foul on virtually every play.

    To illustrate my point, watch the replay of that amazing layup again and you’ll see the great lengths he goes through to make sure Odom doesn’t foul him. If you pause it at 0:06, he’s surrounded by 3 defenders, none of whom have their feet set. If he jumps in any direction, he’ll make contact with Odom, Fisher, or Kobe, but he probably won’t make that ridiculous layup. However, now Kobe/Odom/Fisher would have to sit for the last 2 min of the half and the Bulls are in a better position to win.

    Tony C. December 11, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    A Crog –

    I agree that more fouls called on Rose drives would help to get teams into foul trouble, and that would be an added benefit. I’m just not convinced that inviting hard contact from centers and forwards is a great trade-off. What I’d like to see, ideally, is for Rose to develop a targeted sense of when to attempt to draw a foul. In other words, it shouldn’t be either/or, it should be “I need to get to the line at this crucial point in the game…”, and he then adjusts in a way that he is more likely to do so.

    With regards to my comment on respect, I meant it in terms of the refs. As Rose’s stature continues to grow, and he becomes more confident and vocal, I expect that more borderline calls will come his way.

  12. Alex December 11, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    “Oh, and they’ve played the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, too.”

    Minor point: correct me if I’m wrong, but the Bulls have not yet played the Heat have they?

    cavendish December 11, 2010 at 11:06 pm #

    To the inflammatory article in question: They’re doing what drives web traffic, which is a make noise. How many Bulls fans will hit that page just based on the title?

    To the issue of Rose and free throws: I have a theory that the longer he goes without “getting calls” the greater amount of them he’ll get over the length of his career. He doesn’t squawk at the refs, which leads to fewer calls, which leads to greater respect from officials, which leads to more calls later in his career (like when the Bulls may be in a position to contend for titles). At the very least he’ll only get better at drawing fouls as he gains more experience.

    Last note – the whole issue of Rose not drawing fouls has become a hot topic around the league which can only help the issue. Who knows, maybe some refs will even read that steaming pile of words and keep it in mind for the rest of the season *wink*.

    Scottie Pimpin December 11, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    so they’re basically saying until rose learns how to flop or overreact he wont be considerd elite. someone grab these guys tell and ask em if they got the memo, this kid is from chicago !

    Scottie Pimpin December 11, 2010 at 11:53 pm #

    sorry, dont ask, just tell them, this kid is from chicago !

  16. Brian December 11, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    Ummm the bulls haven’t played the heat yet

    C-Lo-The-Great December 12, 2010 at 12:08 am #

    I’ve been reading alot on how Taj isn’t playing well. I think he’s playing just fine. He’s rebounding the ball when he gets his minutes and really doesn’t need to score if the Boozington/Rose combo are going off. Of course I would like him to make that open jumper, or post up more. All in all Taj is a very solid back up. He can start on any given night and give us quality minutes. I think as the season progresses Taj will be more comfortable coming off the bench. So as of right now I wouldn’t like any trade involving Taj or any other rotation player because I think the Bulls are playing as well as any other tram considering the competition they have been playing against.

    Side note
    If Rose keeps playing like this I vote his nickname be Clutch. I’ve been calling him that name in my home for a little while now

    inkybreath December 12, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    Hell, they should be posting up Taj more, in the same Boozy fashion. He used to start the game well for us and I hope he can bring that instinct to his bench minutes.

    Maybe Booz and Taj can share notes on their up and under moves.

    chitown4life December 12, 2010 at 5:24 am #

    D ROSE= UNSTOPABULL this kid has now shown the world he is a true star and budding superstar yes I said it and yes has legit chance to be the MVP this year if you missed the Lake show game good thing is ws not his ast game meaning UNSTOPABULL soz get yr popcorn put down the remote he is all action don’t want you to miss a play he makes enjoy his game watch him grow at the same time he keeps his feet planted firmly on the ground solid player Great young man with head on shoulders in right directions special thanks to his family keeping him str8 while growing up thanks again.

    ruby December 13, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    I’m surprised that people are ragging on Derrick for his personality (of all things). Even if you can’t appreciate his refreshing humility and wonderful lack of pretentiousness (he’d rather eat Skittles and watch Dexter than talk trash about other teams), you can at least appreciate his breathtaking moves on the court. I was at the Bulls vs Lakers game, and I feel truly blessed to be able to root for such an amazing athlete.


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