Complete and Utter Domination: Bulls 114, Hawks 81

You know what I took from this game against the Hawks?

People better start listening to what Derrick Rose has to say.

And beware.

Rose is a both humble and quite, which borders on amazing when you stop and consider his current stature among the NBA greats. His “aw schucks” attitude and respectful demeanor aren’t acts. In a sports world where the personalities and (especially) egos are larger than life, Rose seems like a creature from another reality. His personality is understated. His ego, if anything, is smaller than life.

Consider a world where Dwight Howard has 16 technical fouls on the season. Amar’e Stoudemire has 15. Carmelo Anthony has 13. Kobe Bryant has 12. Kevin Garnett has 11. Dwyane Wade has nine. “Good guy” Blake Griffin has eight. Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook have seven a piece. The usually calm Steve Nash has six. Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James have four each.

Derrick Rose has one technical foul. One technical foul during a season in which NBA officials have more leeway than ever to T up players for overreacting to calls and non-calls.

And it’s the only technical foul Rose has ever had on any level.

When Derrick earned his one and only tech back in December, he said: “Next time I’ve just got to hold it in and hopefully I won’t get any more techs, because I need that (fine) money. There’s a recession out here.”

Rose was joking around, but he was serious too. And you know what? He hasn’t been called for a technical foul since. For all we know, he may never get one again.

One of the great misconceptions about Rose — and most of these opinions are expressed by bloggers and scribes outside of Chicago — is that he has no personality. That, by NBA standards, he is quite nearly tabula rasa. It’s as if people haven’t encountered quiet humility and stoic dignity before. Well, in this league, most probably people haven’t. Not in a superstar-level player. The closest comparison I can make is former Boston Celtics great Robert Parish. But, although the Chief was great, he was never considered a franchise player like Rose. Which makes Rose almost an alien being among his peers.

That said, one thing people may have noticed is that, when Rose says something, he means it. He really means it.

Last Sunday, anticipating a rematch of sorts with a Kings team that humilated the Bulls last season by coming back from a 35-point deficit to win in the United Center, said: “It’s a heartbreaker. But you learn from it. If we’re up 30, we’re going to try to push it to 40, 50 points.”

The Bulls won by 40.

After crushing Sacramento, Rose was looking ahead to his team’s matchup with the Hawks. The last time the Bulls visited Atlanta, they had choked away a 19-point lead and lost by three. Regarding that, Rose said: “You can’t forget that game. I think none of us on the team have [forgotten] that game. You’ve got to remember it. I think that if we get a lead like that down there again, I think that we won’t let them come back the way they did.”

Well, the Bulls got a lead like that again. In fact, they led by as many as 47 and eventually won by 33.

Rose was front and center, making sure the Bulls didn’t let up, trying to crush the the Hawks into a fine paste. He capped off a 20-point first half by drilling a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer. He finished with 30 points on 20 shots, knocked down a career-best six three-pointers on eight attempts, and dished out 10 assists versus only one turnover. That’s a lot of production considering he played only 29 minutes and sat out the entire fourth quarter.

Need I remind you what Rose said back in September? To the WABAC machine, Sherman:

“The way I look at it, why can’t I be the MVP in the league? Why can’t I be the best player in the league? I don’t see why not. I work hard, I dedicate myself to the game and sacrifice a lot of things at a young age, and I know, if I continue to do good what I can get out of it. If that’s me going out and doing whatever, I’m willing to do it because in the long run I know it’s gonna help me. This is the hardest I’ve ever worked out, this past summer. I’ve put a lot of work in, staying in the gym every day, making sure I’m getting prepared for a big season because I believe we can make it far.”

This statement was met with a slight chuckle and mild amusement by many fans and experts. Rose winning the MVP award in a world with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, et al.? On the one hand, people seemed relieved that Rose had finally said something of interest. On the other, they might have preferred something that sounded a little less, well, crazy.

And yet…here we are.

I’m still staying out of the “Rose for MVP” debate. I prefer to see how things shake out by the final day of the regular season. Win-Loss records and all that. That said, LeBron James and Dwight Howard seem to be Rose’s primary competition for the award, and their teams have the sixth and eighth-best records in the league. Historically speaking, that’s not good enough to win the MVP.

So even I have to wonder: Why can’t Rose be the MVP?

The love fest for Rose aside, the Bulls looked fantastic last night. Playing on the second night of back-to-back games on the road against the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, with the first seed on the line, the Bulls ravaged the Hawks like some sort of wild animal. In the first half, they shot 73.8 percent from the field (not to mention a blistering 78 percent from beyond the arc) and outscored the Hawks 72-43. On this night, their offense was every bit as good as their league-leading defense.

The Bulls finished with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 60.8 and an Offensive Rating of 135.4. They had 30 assists on 43 field goals. They outrebounded the Hawks 40-26 (including an astounding Offensive Rebounding Rate of 32.3) and outscored them 48-18 in the paint. And those numbers include an entire fourth quarter worth of garbage time.

To me, the defining moment of this game came with 2:08 left in the third. With his team leading 91-55, Rose committed his only turnover of the game and, after Joakim Noah fouled Josh Smith to prevent a breakaway, Rose was cursing himself out. Despite being ahead by 36 points. That’s how Derrick works. That’s how this team works.

Rose obviously had a big game and Luol Deng scored 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting. But, and I know I keep saying this, the win was a total team effort. Guys were locking down on defense. Setting pick. Crashing the boards. Setting each other up. And it’s worth reminding the world at large that we are only now seeing how good the Bulls could be. Finally, all the pieces are on the board. Carlos Boozer is back. Joakim Noah is playing. Everyone is in place for the stretch run.

Especially the defense.

That’s right. Defense. Even though the Bulls have had back-to-back red-hot shooting games, everything this team does begins on the other end of the court.

Said Deng: “I think it starts with our defense. When our mindset is right on defense, we seem to work harder on offense. When we’re not as focused on defense, it kind of leads to our offense. We’re kind of just going through the motions. It always starts with defense.”

Added Rose: “It’s still defensively. Sometimes it gets hard, but to win games, to win a championship, it takes defense. And we’re just trying to stay together on defense, knowing that we can’t take any steps back right now. We’re trying to keep going. We’re trying to push each other every day. Trying to get better. And I think that we’re moving in the right direction.”

That’s another amazing thing about this team. After every loss, after every win, the talk is always about getting better. And it’s not lip service, either. The players have taken that concept to heart. Because of coach Tom Thibodeau.

After back-to-back games on back-to-back nights in which his team led by 40-plus points at various times, Thibs still insisted there’s still plenty of work to do.

Said Thibodeau: “They shot too high of a percentage. Defensively, there’s a lot of things we can clean up. But I like the fact that we got the big lead. And I thought we played tough with the lead. And we want to be a 48 minute team. They outscored us in the fourth 21-16, so there’s things we can correct and improve, but we got to keep the big picture in mind. I think the good teams in this league continue to get better as they go along.”

Considering the Bulls are leading John Hollinger’s Power Rankings by more than two full points and currently have the best point differential (+7.4) in the league, the idea that they can still get better is kind of scary…

…but I like it.

TrueHoop Network:
Bret LaGree of Hoopinion: “The Hawks didn’t make a basket in the paint over the final 27:34 of the game, though Marvin Williams (in the third quarter) and Jeff Teague (in the fourth quarter) each made a jumper inside of 15 feet during that portion of the game. The Hawks didn’t make a basket in the paint over the final 27:34 of the game despite trailing by at least 20 points for the entire time. Defense is about talent more than it’s about effort but a culture of accountability has its place as well.”

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

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30 Responses to Complete and Utter Domination: Bulls 114, Hawks 81

  1. Super Joe March 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    Boozer looks like a statue when he plays defense. Lol.

  2. kuwabarra@mail.ru'
    Mr Bull March 23, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    I remember an article on ESPN in september about whether or not letting Vinny go was the right thing.AND YES I WAS THE RIGHT THING!!!

  3. Inception March 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    to put it simple – the whole team was in a zone from quarters 1-3….they are truly unstoppable when they are shooting lights out, because you know the defense will be clicking as well….this is not the phoenix suns, where they can hit shot after shot and still lose in a shoot-out…however, one thing you might to worry about is CHI’s record when allowing a team to score 100+ pts.

    anyway, gotta love these revenge games…you know a team is special when they back-up their words and perform with a vengeance….the Jordan teams had it, and we’re now seeing the beginning of it with Rose and co…the guy is truly a silent assassin.

  4. vcarter@web.de'
    WR March 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    As always right on point, Matt. I’m totally amazed and impressed by Derrick’s humble and quiet demeanor.

    “The closest comparison I can make is former Boston Celtics great Robert Parish.”

    Hailing from Germany, I think Dirk might be a good comparison as well.

  5. bleigh82@gmail.com'
    bleigh82 March 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    That game was a thing of beauty! During that big 2nd quarter run when the Bulls scored on 16 straight possessions it felt like they might never miss! The ball movement during the hot streak was as impressive as the shooting.

    This team must have the best record in the league on the second night of a back to back. Seems like they have no let up.

  6. alrichca@yahoo.com'
    KC March 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Hate to be a one-trick pony but: 34 minutes for Deng tonight, after 33 last night. No one else broke 30. If his jumper is off come playoffs, I’ll be blaming dead legs and games like this.

  7. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale March 23, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    “Boozer looks like a statue when he plays defense. Lol.”

    Not that Boozington is a great (or even solid) defensive player by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s worth remembering that he’s still recovering from a sprained ankle, which is limiting his mobility even more than usual.

    “I remember an article on ESPN in september about whether or not letting Vinny go was the right thing. AND YES I WAS THE RIGHT THING!!!”

    Vinny had his defenders, and, in all honesty, I think he did a decent job with what he had. But I also don’t think there’s any question whatsoever at this point that the Bulls went out and hired the best possible coach for this group of players.

    “anyway, gotta love these revenge games…you know a team is special when they back-up their words and perform with a vengeance….the Jordan teams had it, and we’re now seeing the beginning of it with Rose and co…the guy is truly a silent assassin.”

    Agreed. The Bulls have, very quietly, made various statements this year about how they remember losses and how they intend to correct them in future games against teams that have beaten them. And, as you say, they’ve backed their words up, time and again. I think that’s a great sign.

    “Hailing from Germany, I think Dirk might be a good comparison as well.”

    Dirk is certainly in the ball park.

    “That game was a thing of beauty! During that big 2nd quarter run when the Bulls scored on 16 straight possessions it felt like they might never miss! The ball movement during the hot streak was as impressive as the shooting.”

    I know what you mean. I found myself thinking: We’re finally seeing what the Bulls can do with everybody (mostly) healthy and playing.

  8. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale March 23, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    “Hate to be a one-trick pony but: 34 minutes for Deng tonight, after 33 last night. No one else broke 30. If his jumper is off come playoffs, I’ll be blaming dead legs and games like this.”

    Can I just pretend Deng’s high MPG isn’t happening?

  9. bodybagsteven@gmail.com'
    BFD March 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    The number of minutes doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that Luol actually started the 4th quarter. Why on earth was he starting that quarter!?

  10. oneredstone@gmail.com'
    rt March 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    During the TNT broadcast as they were going to commercials during or after the second quarter, I heard one of the analysts say, “Mercy rule.”

  11. Tae March 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Hey Matt, do you think the idea of getting Wilson Chandler is a good priority move? He can start the 2, then sub in for Deng as a SF later since that’s his natural position.

  12. Inception March 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    @KC – not liking Deng’s minutes as well…i don’t understand how Butler plays only 4 mins in a game like that…my only explanation is Thibs wanted to maintain the momentum and flow of the game with Deng in there….i’ve said it earlier – if Thibs has one area to improve on, it’s his rotation/minutes management.

  13. bob.edwards47@yahoo.com'
    BoppinBob March 23, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    Deng’s minutes the only explaination is that Thibs really believes that Deng is the “glue” of the Bulls. Quite a foundation to build a team around, Rose and Deng both quietly go about their business of playing the best Bball they can. No bragging, no complaining, (Deng has every reason to complain the way the press and fans have talked about him) just keep doing what they can. Boozer and Noah augment the quiet confidence of Rose and Deng. Every player on the roster knows what they have to do to be successful, and they just go and do it. The Bulls do not have a “big three”, they have a complete “team”.

    Very impressive win, possibly even scary for future opponents. Second game of back-to-backs, away, against a team which had not lost to the Bulls at home in 6 games, and the Bulls go into Atlanta and spank the Hawks, and proceeded to rub their noses in it by sitting the starters for almost the entire 4th quarter. WOW!!!

    Circle April 7th and April 12th on your calendars, could be statement games, 7th at home against Boston, 12th at New York against the Knicks.

  14. Jimmy March 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

    I love looking at the box score after a game like this…Rose was the best tho IMO, 30pt, 10ass, only 1 TO, and 0 PF…all while shooting 6-8 behing the arch….in 29 mins! wowwwww

  15. Matt March 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    True killers kill in silence (must be read in whisper)

  16. cliniclysick March 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    I didn’t even notice it until I watched the game a second time, but our guys didn’t score a single point the last 5:58 of the game! Here’s a run-down of the last 12 possessions:
    - Taj misses a hook-up (hookshot meets layup:))
    - CJ launches a three that goes in and out
    - CJ has a breakaway layup blocked by Teague
    - Taj called for a moving screen
    - CJ slips and loses the ball
    - Omer has the rock stolen by Wilkins
    - Ronnie’s 19-foot jumper is short
    - Rasual misses a three
    - CJ clanks a fall-away 19-footer
    - Rasual bricks one from 20 feet
    - CJ misses from downtown
    - CJ somehow has the ball stolen as he’s holding it with time running out

    That’s 0-for-8 with 4 turnovers. C’mon Thibs, I think a 7:00am practice is called for! LOL.

    Great game, great effort. I love watching the second unit so much, I didn’t even notice they didn’t score for so long. They were still going at it 100% (well, maybe 95%). Now rest up and get ready to take a bite out of the Gay-less Grizz on Friday. UC will be rockin’!

  17. koerber1@illinois.edu'
    Dan March 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Hahaha I read somewhere last night that Lu plays 25 minutes on off days

  18. alrichca@yahoo.com'
    KC March 23, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    @BoppinBob – I agree completely. Deng’s plus-minus was leading the team last night, almost a ridiculous +40 I think. He’s so important…that’s why I want to save him for the playoffs.
    I’ll play devil’s advocate: maybe playing Deng plus the bench is a way to gel a second unit prior to the playoff stretch. If a second unit of Deng, Asik, Gibson, Watson and Brewer/Korver gels now, they’ll be able to defend or stretch leads in the playoffs against weaker second units. Maybe.

  19. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale March 23, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    “The number of minutes doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that Luol actually started the 4th quarter. Why on earth was he starting that quarter!?”

    Thibs’ way of saying: “Get off my back about Lu’s minutes. I do what I want”?

    “Hey Matt, do you think the idea of getting Wilson Chandler is a good priority move? He can start the 2, then sub in for Deng as a SF later since that’s his natural position.”

    I like Chandler and all that, but I just don’t see him being a true SG, you know? I could see him doing spot duty at the two at need, but not starting there.

    “Circle April 7th and April 12th on your calendars, could be statement games, 7th at home against Boston, 12th at New York against the Knicks.”

    Big games. HUGE games. I have those down as the two games that decide whether Bulls finish first in the East.

    “That’s 0-for-8 with 4 turnovers. C’mon Thibs, I think a 7:00am practice is called for! LOL.”

    Yeah…I noticed that. And C.J. was UNDRESSED by Jeff Teague. It was a brutal closing stretch for Chicago’s second unit, no doubt about it. But, even with Thib’s screams ringing in their ears, it’s hard to be totally sharp when you’re up 30-40 points, in part because further beating on your opponent just kinda feels bad.

    “Hahaha I read somewhere last night that Lu plays 25 minutes on off days.”

    That’s funny…I’d heard it was just over 30 minutes on off days…

  20. Inception March 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

    man i hope DRose is listening to Skip Bayless and his commentaries on ESPN regarding Rose’s play and the team’s chances of winning a title….

  21. Luvabull March 23, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    Great piece Matt. It’s safe to say Rose (and the team) is on a mission. A mission from God (or from the ghost of MJ). The Bulls Brothers are back and they got the band together. Starring D-Rose as “Jake Bulls”, Do-All-Deng as “Elwood Bulls”, Boozer as “Rev. Cleophus James”, Kurt Thomas as “Curtis”, Thibbs as “Mrs. Murphy”, Pargo as “Mystery Woman” and the rest.

    It’s 12 games to the 1st round of playoffs, we’ve got the full roster on hand, half a game ahead of the Celts, it’s March and we’re wearing Rose colored sunglasses.

    Hit it!

  22. Luvabull March 23, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    It’s gravy time. With the new additions to the roster, particularly Boozer and Korver (filling two big voids from seasons past), I expected this team to be one of the top teams in the east. But with strong Boston, Miami and Orlando teams, I thought the Bulls would be fighting the Hawks for the fourth seed. I thought we’d improve but with the loss of Kirk and Brad, I thought it would be tempered to around 50 wins. Did not think we’d get close enough to sniff 60 and 1st in the conference.
    I’m starting to believe this team has a legit shot at the finals.

  23. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath March 23, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    I am so regretting giving Bayless the benefit of the doubt the other day. He is just too snivelly.

    On the bright side, Asik got a nice front page mention on nba.com, regarding rookie big men. It wasn’t much of a poll, but between Splitter, Mozgoz and Asik … our boy got 77% of the vote, as to who would be the best big man in the end…

    Asik & Destroy .. gotta love it.

  24. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale March 24, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    “It’s safe to say Rose (and the team) is on a mission. A mission from God (or from the ghost of MJ). The Bulls Brothers are back and they got the band together. Starring D-Rose as “Jake Bulls”, Do-All-Deng as “Elwood Bulls”, Boozer as “Rev. Cleophus James”, Kurt Thomas as “Curtis”, Thibbs as “Mrs. Murphy”, Pargo as “Mystery Woman” and the rest.”

    Okay, seriously…I laughed pretty hard at that one.

    “Asik & Destroy .. gotta love it.”

    I love it so much that I am making a solemn promise: Next big game Omer has, the subhead of the recap will be “Asik and Destroy.” Note it.

  25. reggiemcglory@yahoo.com'
    Chittown4life March 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    Lots of chatter about the minutes that our Bulls players are playing .
    1) They are young and healthy no need to think they cannot bare the mins played the coach knows what he is doing.
    2) Why is there so much concern over minutes when our team needs to be in shape for the playoffs,if they werre losing you all would probally say they need to play more minutes to get more experience.
    let us not forget this team has a whole new cast of members on it.
    3)If and when we get to the playoffs if this team loses it won’t be because of tired legs it will be because they got beat period.
    4)The game last night was not just a statement to the league but also to the hawks whom the Bulls might pla if they face them in the playoffs.
    5)I am a firm beleiver that practice makes perfect so what better place to make this team perfect than in a game .
    6)D Rose is the MVP not only of our team but the NBA but he is also much more than that this young man has shown you can be humble yet be a giant at the same time no need to be loud or a complainer for a Tech , also is showing the world no matter who you are or how much money you have you can still treat pepole fairly and be humble and still get respect you deserve.
    7) Skip payless(bayless) is such a Bulss hater its so clear wonder who pays him or if its just all him to hate on our Bulls like he does either way gon na love watching him eat some crow when our Bulls win the East and Rose wins the MVP title will be one to record and keep to laugh at him lots of times for the record his points sometimes are good but when it comes to our Buls he is flat one sided, and that is he is a true hater of our players and the Team .

  26. Inception March 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    Skippy does have an argument going his way though….”scoring” PG’s do not have a history of winning a title…..it’s just a matter of breaking that trend and shutting up all the critics….the odds are definitely stacked against Rose….don’t think otherwise.

  27. finalfinally@gmail.com'
    Trey March 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    Anyone else think the reason that Thibs is conditioning Deng to play so many minutes is because not only is SF our weakest position, but the depth of talented SF’s like LeBron, Carmelo, and Pierce in the East?

  28. Inception March 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    @Trey….Deng will def have his hands full if they fail to grab the #1 seed….as a #2, he will have to face all three of those SF’s (if all goes as planned)…ouch.

  29. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath March 24, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    I would like to see the list of comparable point guards in the last 25 years who were ‘scorers’ on a highly sucessful team.

    I can only think of Isiah Thomas off the top of my head. (Who did not win MVP.)

  30. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath March 25, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    Add the Atlanta Hawks to the list of teams the Bulls have literally and figuratively affected this year.

    Our game against them brought their weaknesses to full light and they are having to answer for it now.

    I’m just happy we broke the short-lived ex-player curse.

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