Okay, I should probably start off by talking about how the Bulls finally broke their road jinx and then discuss what the 103-96 win means to their push for the playoffs…but right now all I can think about is Derrick Rose. Just glancing at the box score, you might be tempted to think his line — 25 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal — was merely “very good.” Especially if you notice that he committed a game-high 6 turnovers. (Ugh.) But you know, my grandpa always used to say: Figures lie, and liars figure. And I’m telling you, Rose owned the second half.
He scored 20 points in the final two quarters on 10-for-10 shooting. And lest you think the kid can’t shoot, check it: Only one of those 10 field goals was a layup. During his second-half tour de force, Derrick hit from 17, 16, 11, 20, 17, 16, 12, 16 and 17 feet.
Most of that damage — 14 points worth on 7-for-7 shooting — came in the pivotal third quarter, during which the Bulls outscored the Thunder 29-19. Derrick came out swinging, hitting five shots in the first 5 minutes of the half. Not surprisingly, that 5-point halftime deficit faded like a bad dream. Later in the period, Rose staved off a little run by the Thunder (who had taken a 1-point lead) with a 17-footer from the right wing and then finished the quarter by driving to the basket, losing his dribble, recovering, then somehow concocting a 16-footer from the left elbow just before the shot clock went off. Yep, it was just one of those nights.
Former Bull Thabo Sefolosha, a defensive specialist who spent a little time not stopping Rose, said: “He definitely wasn’t missing in the second half. He’s that type of player. He’s got a streaky jump shot but when he starts making a few of them like that, it’s hard to stop him.” No kidding.
Yeah, I loved it. I loved seeing the kid assert himself. The Bulls need that. They really do. He might never be a vocal leader. Some people aren’t. (Although it’s possible to find that inner voice and make it an outer voice, as Dwyane Wade has proven this season.) But if he can lead by example, if he can pull the team up by their shoe strings and take them where they need to go, well, then I guess we’ll have a superstar on our hands.
Okay, okay, I’m done. For now. This was one great game, and Derrick will need to have many, many more of them before we start planning a statue or anything. Let’s talk about the best of the rest. Like John Salmons, who followed up his 38-point effort against the Celtics with 20 points on 8-for-15 from the field (which gives him 82 points in his last three games). I have to tell you, Salmons is better than I thought he was. Since he arrived from Sacramento, he’s averaging more points on fewer shot attempts (and 50 percent shooting), he’s rebounding a little better and his PER has jumped from 16.1 to 18.5.
Speaking of former Kings who are better than I thought, how about Brad Miller? Last night he chipped in 14 points, 6 boards and a team-high 5 assists off the bench. And yeah, his numbers are up since his relocation to Chicago, but with Brad it’s more about those little intangibles. Like the way he manages to come up with key offensive rebounds (he had four of them last night). Or how he manages to get to the hoop. How does he do that? Seriously, Brad Miller couldn’t outrun a park bench, but somehow he gets his shambling bulk to the front of the rim. I guess you could call that veteran savvy.
Other notables: Tyrus Thomas had a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) to go along with a team-high 3 steals; Joakim Noah contributed 4 points, 5 boards, 2 steals and a team-high 3 blocked shots; Ben Gordon added 18 points; and Kirk Hinrich hit two huge three-pointers in the fourth quarter. Really, it was a nice all-around effort. Which you don’t usually see from the Bulls outside of the United Center.
So anyway, yeah, that seven-game road losing streak? It’s over. Moreover, the Bulls are now a game and a half up on the Bucks and Bobcats in this epic struggle for the East’s final playoff spot. Next up: The Lakers.
Reason for concern:The Bulls committed 22 turnovers, which the Thunder turned into 30 bonus points. When a team gets outscored by 18 in points off turnovers, bad things usually happen…so consider that a bullet dodged. Also, the Bulls were shooting lights out (52.5 percent) but their ball movement was “meh” at best: They compiled only 12 assists on 42 field goals. Luckily those shots were going in.
Favorite broadcaster exchange of the night: Neal Funk observed that Kevin Durant — who scored a game-high 28 points on 9-for-21 shooting — hadn’t dished out a single assist. Stacey King tried to cover for KD, noting that he’s a scorer and that scorers, well, they score. I forget the exact wording, but Funk basically replied that somebody who gets as many touches as Durant probably should have picked up at least one assist by accident.
Things that make you go “hmm…”: The Bulls are now 17-12 against the Western Conference. Wow, huh?
No more streakin’: Tyrus had his streak of games with at least one blocked shot snapped at 29. But hey, it’s still a Bulls franchise record.
TrueHoop Network: Royce from the Daily Thunder: “This was just one of those frustrating losses that really reminded me of the competitive but tough December OKC had. Kevin Durant was solid scoring 28 and grabbing six boards (but was 2-9 from the floor in the second half). Jeff Green was alright with 18, but only had three rebounds. Russell Westbrook had 15 points and six assists, but wasn’t that great in the second half. Nick Collison was excellent off the bench with 12 and 13, but he was really the only guy that hit the glass. A couple guys played good, nobody played great and a couple guys played bad. You add those three things together and a seven-point loss sounds about right.”