OK, with a night to think, the question becomes: Did that really happen? Did the Bulls, down both starting wings, win a road contest in potentially the best home court in the league against the prohibitive title favorite?
Nothing can be considered surprising anymore for a team that has woeful losses to Orlando, Utah, Boston, Indiana and Brooklyn but has also registered road wins in Washington, Dallas, Memphis, Los Angeles and now Golden State.
It certainly didn’t look promising early. The Warriors were going full Showtime, with Klay Thompson continuing his molten-lava-hot shooting (he followed up his 37 point quarter against the Kings with 31 on 11-19 against Boston) and Steph Curry flashing his playmaking ability in the open court with a halfcourt lob. The Warriors in general crushed the Bulls in transition, holding a 23-2 edge that finished at 31-8. Clearly looking for his shot with Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy in street clothes, Derrick Rose hit two triples right off the bat, but any Bulls fan knows his shooting can come and go.
At one point in the first half, the Warriors were shooting 55% to Chicago’s 35%, and also outproducing them from beyond the arc, yet the Bulls remained within six. Aaron Brooks scored seven points during his first half stint, but that was countered by a flurry from Harrison Barnes, and usually it’s the Bulls making ground with their bigs off the bench, however David Lee provided his best game of the year (24/9/6 on 10-17) for Golden State in Andrew Bogut’s absence, while Taj Gibson was rather poor for Chicago.
Down 49-39 halfway through the second, Rose and Pau Gasol returned and, along with Nikola Mirotic, promptly spearheaded a 10-0 run. While the Warriors regained the lead going into the half, that stretch was huge in preventing the game from getting out of hand.
The second half evolved into a much a much uglier half of basketball. In a game of limited whistles, Chicago was hardly getting any calls on contact near the basket, save for the flailing arms from Pau, who the refs respect more than Rose, Taj or Noah, because apparently they fall for the RINGZ argument just like the more simple-minded corners of the internet.
As each team grew more tired from the pace, Rose racked up turnovers, 11 in all, and the Warriors did not hit a three after the intermission, going an astonishing 0-13. After getting smoked earlier, both Rose and Kirk Hinrich stepped up their level on defense, sticking tight to Curry and Klay, who began launching more threes out of desperation and exhaustion, and those factors also contributed to all of those shots failing to go in.
The latter stages of the game produced an interesting stylistic clash. Golden State, sans Bogut, utilized smaller lineups and even tiny lineups with Green at center. Meanwhile, Tony Snell and Hinrich’s atrocious shooting submarined Chicago’s spacing and Thibs has no interest in playing Doug McDermott at the moment, so he went back to super-big lineups with Mirotic at small forward, which he had completely abandoned after limited looks at it. Gasol did not play physical on either end, resorting to fadeaways against Draymond Green and failing to box out on defense. However, he hit more than one of those fadeaways and tallied 18/16/8 and 4 blocks in 41 minutes. Somehow, Pau always fills the stat sheet. Meanwhile, Noah had possibly his best game of the year, really rounding into form in the second half. He finished with 18/15/6 and two steals on 7-12 shooting, plus 4-4 from the line. Most importantly, his mobility and athleticism looked better than it most of this season.
Brooks drove the length of the floor for a layup to end the third and stay within two, though Lee immediately put the Dubs up by double digits again early in the fourth. Rose bounced back from a cluster of missed shots and turnovers to score three baskets in the lane. The Bulls were running out of time to catch up, as Golden State managed to offset two great plays from Pau to Noah with baskets of their own. The game really should have been over when Hinrich passed up an open three created by Rose down by one, but with the win nearly locked up, Curry gacked the pass trying to get the ball upcourt. Rose drove into the lane and amid the chaos found Hinrich, who hit his only three in six attempts, because Kirk Hinrich lives to troll us all. The Warriors, however, sent it to overtime when Green climbed over Gasol for a tip-in.
Both teams were gassed, leading to just one bucket apiece in the first three minutes of the extra frame. A Noah tip-in, another welcome sight after his recent play, gave the Bulls the edge, only for Curry to answer with an absolutely sublime reverse baseline layup off the glass.
After Thompson failed to make the Bulls pay for a Hinrich turnover, Rose went full HeroBall to nail a step-back deep two with Thompson’s hand in his face. It wasn’t a particularly good shot, but he made it. After the Bulls used their foul-to-give on a play where the Warriors believed Andre Iguodala was in the act of shooting (though he’s declined into a horrific free shooter, so they were likely better off), Thompson ditched a three pointer in the face of Gasol, blew by him and missed a midrange runner off glass as time expired.
Rose has caught a lot of crap for 13-33 shooting, paired with 11 turnovers and just one assist, but don’t let the box score fool you. The Bulls would have been absolutely blitzed without him in a game that he set the tone and carried the offensive burden. He had some sloppy giveaways, the bounce-off-his-leg types that have plagued him at times this year, but he shared the floor with Kirk, Snell, Pau and Noah, at least until Mirotic supplanted Snell. That’s about as horrid as floor-spacing gets for a good NBA team, plus the Warriors were allowed to get away with a Seattle Seahawks-esque level of physicality.
Playing inefficiently does *not* necessarily equate to playing the wrong way. If every game were like this for Rose, it’d be a discussion, but each game its own entity. Sometimes a quarterback is going to throw three picks because he has to attack downfield to give his team a chance to win. There’s a middle ground between the “LOL one assist, he was terrible” and “WINNING is the only stat that matters” crowds. Last night, Derrick Rose found that middle ground by doing what was *necessary* for his team to win. The final shot was not a validation of that, as it would have been true whether he hit the last shot or not.
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