Thanks to all the post-lockout scheduling quirks, this NBA season has been and will be a strange one.
The Bulls — who are still without Rip Hamilton (sore groin) and C.J. Watson (sprained left elbow) were playing the second game of back-to-backs on the road. They’re also in the middle of a stretch of nine games in 12 days.
The Timberwolves were playing the last of a three-straight-game set at home. And you could tell by the way they played defense for most of the first half. The Bulls hit 20 of their first 29 shots and took a 24-point lead in the second quarter.
Game over, right?
Not if Rubio had anything to say about it.
Minnesota closed the second quarter on a wild 20-2 run, with Ricky scoring or dishing on 18 of those points. The T-Wolves got hot and the Bulls went painfully broke. The half ended Chicago 53, Minny 47.
And we had ourselves a ball game.
Said Rose: “The way it started off we thought it was going to be a good game. It took another turn where we weren’t playing defense, they were knocking down their shots, executing their plays and we were really getting hurt.”
Getting hurt is right. It’s rare for this team to surrender 100 points. It didn’t help that they gave up 25 points off 18 turnovers and let the Timberwolves run out for 18 fast break points.
That sloppiness nearly ruined a fantastic offensive night that saw the Bulls score 111 points on 53 percent shooting (including 11-for-20 from downtown) and win the rebounding battle 47-30.
Fortunately, Chicago has Rose.
Derrick finished with 31 points (12-for-22, 4-for-8 on threes) and 11 assists. According to ESPN Stats and Information, it was his seventh 30-point/10-assist game since the start of last season…and that’s tops in the league over that span. Over that period, Russell Westbrook has had six such games, while LeBron James, Deron Williams, an Monta Ellis have all had three of them.
Rose also made several huge clutch plays: a driving layup with 3:55 left to put the Bulls up 99-90, an assist to Luol Deng for an 18-footer that put Chicago ahead 101-92 with 3:24 left, a 10-footer that gave the Bulls a 103-95 lead with 2:30 to go and triple with 1:10 that boosted the lead to 109-100. That’s what we call taking over.
The downside? Derrick played the entire second half and logged a total of 42 minutes. Deng (21 points, 1 rebounds, 3 assists) played 43 minutes. And the Bulls play their third game in a row tonight at home against the Wizards.
When asked whether the Bulls could sweep all three games, Rose said: “We’ll have to see. Tomorrow, I’m not sitting out. I know that. I’ll be playing.”
Bad night: After beating up on the Pistons, Carlos Boozer got beaten up against the Timberwolves. Boozington finished with 7 points on 3-for-10 shooting to go with 6 rebounds and 1 assist in only 23 minutes. The Bulls were outscored by 7 points with Carlos was on the floor.
Better night: Joakim Noah didn’t attempt a single shot against Detroit. He took five against the Wizards, converting three, and finishing with 8 points and 11 rebounds. Unfortunately, Jo also had 4 turnovers to only 1 assists, and he finished with a plus-minus score of -3 in 29 minutes.
Good night: Ronnie Brewer continued to play like a starting two guard: 17 points (5-for-10), 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. He also led the team in free throw attempts — going 6-for-7 from the line — and plus-minus (+15).
What’s more, Brewer made nearly as many clutch plays as Rose. He drilled a 17-footer with 4:37 left (97-90), nailed a three-pointer with 1:44 to go (106-97), and went 2-for-2 from the free throw line with 46 seconds remaining (111-100).
His raw stats don’t jump out at you – 8.5 PPG, 2.2 APG, 2.8 RPG – but he’s shooting 53 percent from the field, 63 percent on threes, and his Player Efficiency Rating is a solid 16.5. That’s better than Deng (14.2), Taj Gibson (14.0), Noah (13.3) and Hamilton (12.8).
It makes you wonder whether Rip might end up coming off the bench once he’s healthy.
Bench mobbing: The reserves continue to be Chicago’s deadliest weapon not named “Derrick Rose.” They combined to score 27 points on 11-for-17 shooting to go with 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks and 2 steals. More importantly, they all finished on the up side of the plus-minus stats: John Lucas (+5), Kyle Korver (+6), Omer Asik (+11), Taj Gibson (+14).