Homecourt sure makes a big difference.
After two straight road losses to sub-.500 teams — due primarily to a couple of truly awful defensive efforts — the Bulls dusted off their defense and put the clamps on the Celtics.
And that defense was extra clampy.
The Celts were coming off a pair of games in which they shot the lights out — 61 percent against the Spurs and nearly 58 percent versus the Raptors — but they were held to 37.8 percent shooting by the Bulls.
Moreover, Boston finished with an Offensive Rating of 91.4 and an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 41.2, quite a bit off their season averages of 108.0 (ranked 10th in the league) and 53.6 (which leads the NBA).
Oh, and the C’s were one point shy of a season-low.
ESPNBoston’s Chris Forsberg said it was simply a bad night for the Celtics, who were playing their fifth game in seven nights, all without Kevin Garnett. And it sounds like Boston coach Doc Rivers kind of agrees.
Said Doc: “We were pretty awful. Let’s say it was the defense, let’s give them the credit. But we were bad. That was the worst ball movement we’ve had all year. … We had no ball movement. We basically bounced the life out of the game tonight. The bottom line is Ray Allen had zero shots in the fourth quarter, Paul [Pierce] had one and, when that happens, we really should not win the game. That was us.”
Rivers might have a point. A quick stat check tells us the Celtics had a season-low 12 assists.
Okay, so, the Celtics played poorly and didn’t get their best players shot attempts in crunch time. Fine. But that doesn’t explain Chicago’s 48-27 advantage on the boards or how they outscored Boston 11-0 in second chance points. Rebounding is about effort. And effort is how the Bulls won the game. And it sounds like Paul Pierce kind of agrees.
Said Pierce: “We had a lot of one-pass shooting tonight. There’s really no explanation. That’s really not the way we play. They wanted it more truthfully. They got all the loose balls. They attacked it.”
Speaking of attacking, how about Derrick Rose? He stepped it up in his matchup with fellow hotshot point guard Rajon Rondo, scoring a game-high 36 points while going 10-for-19 from the field, a shooting performance that featured some sweet running one-handers.
But forget the point total and the hot shooting. Derrick’s most impressive feat was getting to the line. Really getting to the line. Finally.
Rose set career-highs in free throws attempted (19) and free throws made (15). He repeatedly drove at and around Boston’s defense and directly into contact. And the whistles came. Again and again they came.
It only took almost two and a half seasons.
ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell wrote that Rose used film study to figure out the best way to start earning some extra foul shots. I guess that film study paid off.
Said Rose: “I think I’m learning how to get fouled. Where instead of me taking off pretty far, I’m finding the extra dribble and going into their body. Usually I just try to take off and avoid the contact or take off, and they block my shot or something. Just making sure I take my time in the hole and go up to their body first.”
Bulls opponents should be freaking out about now.
Seriously, when Rose came into the league they said he couldn’t shoot the basketball. He’s proven he can. Then they said he couldn’t hit the three or see the floor. Now he’s hitting nearly 40 percent of his threes and averaging better than eight assists per game. Earlier this very season, ESPN’s John Hollinger said Rose wasn’t an elite point guard and wouldn’t be until he learned how to draw contact.
I wonder if Hollinger saw last night’s game? Carlos Boozer — who backed Rose up with yet another double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds — sure got an eyeful.
Said Boozington: “He got the calls tonight. He attacked. He took on the challenge of going against [Rajon] Rondo. He loves challenges like that. For us, it was great to watch. He was aggressive all night long, got to the line, and the refs were giving him the calls. He attacks like that every night. You see him every night just like I see him every night and we saw the same Derrick Rose. It’s just tonight he got the calls and went to the free throw line.”
Drives. Jumpers. Threes. Free throws. Assists. Rose is becoming nearly unstoppable.
Of course, for Derrick to become truly unstoppable, his teammates need to step up their games so opponents can’t stack their defense against him. Yes, I’m looking at you, Keith Bogans.
I’m not kidding. Bogans finished with a game-worst plus-minus score of -14 in 12 minutes. The only other Chicago player with a negative plus-minus score was Kurt Thomas with a -3. Bogans is a complete non-entity on offense and his defense is average on his best days. By contrast, Ronnie Brewer (10 points, 4-for-5, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block) had a game-best plus-minus score of +26.
Memo to Tom Thibodeau: Just give it up and start Brewer already. I honestly cannot think of a worse starter in the NBA than Keith Bogans.
Ah well. Maybe now isn’t the time to nitpick. Maybe I should just let the Bulls enjoy beating the Celtics. It sounds like they’re pretty stoked about it.
Said Rose: “It means a lot. Knowing that we can compete with some of the best teams out there. Especially coming in, getting a win after losing two. Especially against that team. It means a lot to us. Hopefully, it will boost our confidence up and I hope we start playing well.”
Added Brewer: “When you get a win like this, you know [can] compete with some of the best teams in the East. We had some let-ups on the road and it’s unfortunate. But it’s good, it shows that we can bounce back and play together as a team. And I’m just proud of this team that we came back and got a big win.”
Indeed they did.