I’m sorry. I thought the Packers-Bears game wasn’t until Sunday.
It was a real defensive battle out there, folks. The kind where it looked like both teams were wading through invisible mud. Chicago hit only 36.9 percent of their shots. Dallas converted on 35.6 of theirs.
The Bulls scored 12 points in the third quarter. That represented the team’s season-low for a single quarter.
The Mavs finished with 77 points. That was their third-lowest output of the season. On December 28, minus leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki, they scored 76 points against the Raptors. On January 15, in Dirk’s first game back, they managed only 70 points against the Grizzlies in Memphis.
The teams combined for two fast break points. Chicago had none.
Nowitzki — who is a legitimate MVP candidate — went 6-for-16 from the field, missed both of his three-point attempts, and pulled down only two rebounds in 38 minutes. In case you forgot, the dude is seven feet tall and has averaged 8.4 RPG over his 13-year NBA career.
Derrick Rose had a stellar stat line: Game highs in points (26) and assists (9) to go with 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Of course, he went 9-for-28 from the field, including 5-for-20 in the second half, and committed a game-high 4 turnovers.
Rose was the only Bulls player to score in double figures.
Chicago banged and bumped, contesting every shot. Dallas covered Rose like a blanket made out of barbed wire, daring anybody else to beat them.
Look: It was an ugly game. But the Bulls won.
It’s a credit to two things. Defense and Derrick Rose. That’s how the Bulls are getting by right now. That’s what they have to do. Defend the other team like their life depends on it and let Derrick do what he does.
Chicago currently ranks first in Defensive Rating (99.8). The Bulls have held 14 of their last 15 opponents below 100 points. They’ve held eight of those opponents under 90 points. Seven of those opponents have scored fewer than 85 points. Three of them have scored in the 70s.
As for Rose, well, he doesn’t really want to take all those shots. Last night, he attempted 28 field goals. But, in all fairness, 20 of them were hoisted during the second half, and only after Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau implored him to take more shots.
Said Rose: “Coach [Tom Thibodeau] was mad because he didn’t think I was shooting enough [in the first half]. So I just tried to be aggressive in the second half.”
Yes, Rose shot a lot, and poorly. But he also scored 10 points in the decisive fourth quarter. He made clutch shots. His biggest came with 55 seconds left in the fourth. With the Bulls up a point, Rose nearly lost the ball in the paint before backing it out, throwing a few one-on-one moves at Jason Kidd, and then beating the shot clock with a 19-footer that gave Chicago an 80-77 lead.
Technically, the game wasn’t put on ice until Kyle Korver knocked down a couple free throws with five seconds left. But Rose’s jumper forced the Mavericks to look for three-point shots against a tough defense. And obviously, it didn’t happen.
Luol Deng looked weary — he’s now played at least 40 minutes in 11 of the last 15 games — and missed 10 of his 13 shot attempts. But he grabbed a co-game-high 12 rebounds.
Kurt Thomas provided some scoring (9 points on 4-for-5 shooting) and grabbed 11 boards (including five on the offensive end). He also played strong defense. His biggest play was stealing a pass by Shawn Marion right after Rose’s big shot.
The bench scored 30 points and provided a real spark. Kyle Korver (+14), Ronnie Brewer (+13) and C.J. Watson (+12) had the best plus-minus scores of the game.
But, especially with Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah collecting dust on the shelf, the Bulls live and die by what Rose does.
Said Jason Terry: “Derrick Rose is their team. I don’t care who else they have on that roster. He took 28 shots tonight, we made it tough on him. But key guys made some big plays. [C.J.] Watson hit a couple threes and Kurt Thomas was huge for them tonight. Anybody who takes 28 shots, it’s the Jordan rules. You’re not going to guard anyone, he’s just going to keep hoisting them.”
I’m pretty sure Bulls fans are fine with that. And the winning. No matter how ugly it is.
Said Rose: “A win is a win. Everything that went on in that game was kind of terrible, [except for] rebounding and the way we played defense. But we’re just happy to get this win and get it out of the way.”