Rose gives Houston a big problem in clutch

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Rose gives Houston a big problem in clutch

Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010
Updated 1:14 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

HOUSTON The Closer apparently isnt just some show that comes on after late NBA games; its also an appropriate description for the man wearing No. 1 in a Chicago uniform.

Derrick Roses closer instincts came to the forefront Tuesday night, when the All-Star point guard scored 16 of his 33 points to start the final period to help overcome a once-comfortable Rockets (3-7) lead and propel the visiting Bulls to a 94-92 road victoryChicagos (6-3) fourth consecutive winin the first game of the circus trip.

Whatever it takes for my team to win, Im going to try to go out there and do it, said Rose. I guess I did what I was suppose to do.

We showed a lot of resiliency, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. And of course, Derrick was Derrick."

I hope so. Just taking games over, he continued when asked if stretches like the one witnessed in Houston were part of his development as a superstar. Thats on defense, offense whatever you need me to do, Im going to go out there and try.

Rose was at his dynamic best to start the final stanza as part of an 18-0 Bulls run 14 of which he scored to begin the fourth quarter after missing much of the previous period following his fourth foul.

Remarked Rose: It was so frustrating. I knew I had to sit out, but I was just hoping that we kept it close.

They were leaving me open. Preseason really helped me for this moment, where I was shooting like five threes I averaged like four or five threes through the preseason and I was just shooting the ball, continued Rose, who shot 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, including 3-for-4 in his fourth-quarter outburst.

Rose took control of the game, he realized what needed to be done, he started attacking, going north and southattack, attack, attack, added Thibodeau. Hes impossible to guard.

I didnt like the way we started the third quarter and then when Derrick picked up his fourth foul, we had to go to the bench early and then we hit a lull, he went on to say. He came back to start the fourth quarter and he was very, very aggressive and we made up a lot of ground quickly. Hes reading plays, too,

Added Kyle Korver (10 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals), who not only suited up after being a game-time decision, but excelled: When we really needed Derrick, he really stepped up. He hit those threes, he drove to the basket, made a lot of plays for us.

In a game of runs Chicago twice fought back from deficits in which the Rockets seemingly seized control of the contest the Bulls defense was stout down the stretch, limiting Houston power forward Luis Scola (27 points), who had previously tortured them throughout the night.

Rose was in takeover mode, but he had plenty of help. Chicagos much-maligned bench had a strong collective outing, with Korver, swingman Ronnie Brewer and center Omer Asik Thibodeau was confident enough in the rookie that he sat Joakim Noah for the majority of the fourth quarter all had positive individual outings, despite a team 15-for-18 mark from the free-throw line and 19 turnovers, 16 of which were recorded in the first three periods.

Our bench, I thought, was terrific. Omer Asik coming in, Ronnie Brewer coming in, C.J. Watsonthey gave us energy and a spark, said Thibodeau.

We didnt run iso isolation plays. We ran a lot of stuff for guys coming off screens and coming to the basket and Ronnies so great at cutting backdoor to the basket, so Im always looking for him, added Korver. But we had a lot of guys playing together.

Headed to San Antonio after the contest, the Bulls face the always-tough Spurs in a back-to-back game and the second in a seven-game road trip Wednesday evening. Even with his performance in the hard-fought win over Houston, Rose showed little sign of satisfaction afterwards.

We still havent played a whole game together yet. Thats what were trying to fight for. But were coming along, said Rose. Well take any win. Any win is good. We have a tough game tomorrow and were just trying to focus on that.

Were still not a 48-minute team, but were a team that does fight and when we get down, we keep fighting. We came back twice and we have to keep striving for improvement, added Thibodeau. For us, thats the big thing right now. We want to keep getting better and better, and try to analyze what happened in the game and then make the necessary corrections.

Top Toro

Rose obviously was the difference in the game for the Bulls, but his postgame remarks lend some insight to his thought process, which so many observers credit too simply to his physical abilities. In times of adversity, Rose says he seeks out the wisdom of his agent and former Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong.

I had to do something. Talking to agent B.J. Armstrong, he just says stop the game thats with getting to the line or whatever and just concentrate, focus in. Its either stopping it or scoring the ball and tonight, it was with scoring it, said Rose. I just remember the things he says and theyre all important to me. If I need any advice, I have great people thats on the coaching staff, but I need any more advice, I call him.

"He probably wouldnt want me saying his name. Hes probably mad that Im telling you all this, but I go to him for almost everything.

Thibodeau discussed Roses mindset to begin the final period after being saddled with foul trouble.

He plays so hard and he drives the ball so hard, I thought there was a little frustration on his part because hes not getting to the line the way probably he should, said the Bulls coach. When he came out to start the fourth, I thought he did what he should do: He attacked harder. So, I think when you do that, now you get calls. So, I thought his aggressiveness led to a lot of good things for us.

Moment of Truth

Again, Roses play at the beginning of the fourth quarter was huge for Chicago. The team went on an 18-0 run to start the period, with 14 of the points poured in by Rose after heading to bench with his fourth foul at the 5:30 mark in the third quarter.

However, a key to keeping the game close in the first place was a 12-2 run in the second quarter keyed by Chicagos second unit. Brewers 11 first-half points provided a big lift, as did Korvers four assists, especially as both Utah expatriates have struggled to get acclimated to the system and have been hampered by injuries.

Thats what we have to do. Our second quarters havent been strong all year and we have the guys to do it, said Korver. I think its part of us jelling together as a unit and tonight, I thought we did.

X-Factor

Not to be redundant, but the trio of Korver, Brewer and Asik truly stepped up Tuesday. With Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Noah having subpar evenings, the play of Chicagos second unit cant be underestimated.

Asik, in particular, provided a major defensive deterrent to the smallish Rockets again, sans Yao and his offense appears to be increasingly better than advertised, albeit not gaudy statistically.

I thought Omers energy in the first half was really good. Hes so active, at his size, at the rim and theyre such a good cutting team that his shot-blocking there and his activity, he sets a great screen on the pick-and-roll; he rolls hard and he has great hands. So, I thought that gave us a spark offensively, too. And it was the way the group was playing, too. I thought the group was functioning extremely well, so I wanted to stay with it longer, said Thibodeau.

I think hes done it through the preseason and the start on the season. When hes on the floor, its harder to score. His rebounding is excellent, he makes effort to the offensive board, but defensively, he brings a lot to the table for us.

Subtly Strategic

Thibodeaus insertion of Asik in Noahs stead paid off major dividends, but perhaps one of the biggest factors in the Bulls win were two baskets a layup and a 3-pointer by Houston point guard Kyle Lowry at the end of shot-clock buzzers that were later overturned by instant replay.

Quipped Thibodeau: Love it instant replay. Love it. Best thing that happened to this league. It was great. It was good fortune. Those were two tough shots that they made and we were fortunate that those things worked in our favor.

We needed them. He Lowry hit some crazy shots. Those were some crazy shots that he hit, but Im happy that they the NBA did that put in an instant-replay rule to review shots made at the end of periods or end of the shot clock, added Rose.

Additionally, the Bulls dodged a bullet with Roses foul trouble, as he committed a giveaway foul in the first half that almost came back to haunt them.

In hindsight, I look back, he Rose had one foul. So we knew we had the foul to give. Probably wont do that in the future, said Thibodeau. To me, some guys can play with fouls, too. Normally, hes not in foul trouble, so its a calculated risk. I thought the way the game was going, wed take a shot at it. Didnt work.

Thorn in the Side

Although the Bulls did a good job on him down the stretch, Rockets power forward Luis Scola absolutely killed the Bulls with his excellent footwork and touch in the low post.

Hes Scola so clever and crafty. We just tried to make his catches as hard as possible, but he knows how to get open, said Thibodeau. I thought our ball pressure was better in the fourth quarter, which I thought helped us.

Also, former Bulls center Brad Miller had one of those turn-back-the-clock nights thats so familiar to Chicago fans, as he went for 21 points including three 3-pointers on the night.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Dwyane Wade would like clarity on Bulls' direction before making decision

Dwyane Wade would like clarity on Bulls' direction before making decision

If there’s one thing that’s been in short order for the Bulls over the last year or so, clarity would be first on the list.

So Dwyane Wade would certainly like to have a little of that before heading into the summer of evaluating his place with the franchise and whether or not he’ll pick up his $23.8 million option for next season.

The Bulls’ front office signed players like Wade and Rajon Rondo last summer for the “now”, and then traded dependable veteran Taj Gibson for the “future”, along with management’s repeated flirtations with the prospect of trading Jimmy Butler for the last two years.

The only thing consistent about the Bulls’ front office strategy has been the inconsistency and their desire to have flexibility in the future. For the now, they’ve positioned themselves to have flexibility to go in one direction or the other, to be contenders or hit the button on a rebuild that could take years to recover from.

Wade has called his experience a mostly positive one, although there’s been some hiccups in his return home to Chicago. After Friday night’s series-ending loss to the Boston Celtics, Wade called it a “weird season” and seemed to echo the same big picture feelings Saturday.

He also seemed to shoot down the thought of being a prime recruiter for the franchise even if he does opt-in, considering his role in bringing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami to help the Heat win two championships and get to the NBA Finals in each of the four seasons they were together.

“It happened at a time in Miami where it just so happened one of my good friends is one of the best players to ever play the game of basketball on the planet (James),” he said. “This is now. It's a different time. It's all about the picture that's presented to everyone here and what the goal and future is gonna look like. It's not just about, 'oh we have Dwyane'. Dwyane ain't gonna play that much longer, not forever.”

Wade had five 30-point games in 59 games this season, being on pace to play 71 before breaking bones in his right elbow in mid-March. His numbers weren’t too dissimilar from last year in Miami, with the exception of more 3-point attempts at the urging of the roster construction.

Repeating that type of performance in Year 15 is feasible, one would think, even if he’s closer to the finish line than starting blocks.

“If I could say anything, if there’s one word I could pull out it’s just different,” Wade said. “I expected it to be different. I only played in one organization my entire career, but the biggest thing is I came here and I was embraced. Not only by the city, by up top. I was embraced by the coaches, the players, and it was some good moments and some bad moments, just like every season. But I don’t regret my decision at all.”

Wade has at least a month or so before he believes he has to truly think about what he’ll do, and let management know that in exit interviews at the Advocate Center Saturday afternoon.

“We just talked face to face and touched bases,” Wade said. “We really left it at as we would touch base in a few weeks. No matter where I’m at in the world, we’ll fly and meet somewhere and talk about it.”

Somewhere, he’ll also have a conversation with the player he came to Chicago to pair with in Butler, as one can’t help but think their futures are inextricably tied. If Butler goes in some trade, one would think Wade wouldn’t be gung-ho about signing back on to play with Romper Room.

Being on a team where he’s not as depended on nightly for it to be successful could factor in, as he was the second-best player behind Butler. One wonders if he would be better served as the third-best option or even fourth—meaning he would likely be on a team contending for a championship if he were to fall on the pecking order.

“I have a great luxury. I don't need to ring chase, but I can,” Wade said. “It's a great luxury to have if I want to do. Or I can be a part of passing down my knowledge to younger players. It's either way. Whatever I decide, I'm going to embrace whatever role I have on a team. That's sometimes being the second option. Sometimes I'm going to be the first. And sometimes this season, I had to be the third or fourth.”

[MORE: BullsTalk Podcast - Top-seeded Celtics too much to handle for Bulls]

Considering he’ll be 36 next January with 14 years of NBA wear and tear on his body, that paycheck might not be enough to keep him around.

“Well, obviously it is a Dwyane Wade decision. Jimmy is, you know, a huge component in me being here. You know, what’s his future like? But at the end of the day it is a me decision,” Wade said. “But everyone knows that Jimmy’s my guy, and I’m here because of our conversation [last summer]. But a lot of it depends on the whole big picture. Not just one piece. Jimmy’s a big piece, but it’s a big picture as an organization. Just want to make sure we’re all on the same page.’’

But on the other side, he also arrived in Chicago due to perceived disrespect from a Miami Heat franchise that didn’t pay him what he deemed worthy. Opting out after one year of a big deal to face an unknown market is a risk considering the salary sacrifices he made with the Heat.

“I don’t really go with the signs, I’m not a predictable person, I don’t think,” Wade said. “I don’t know. It’s not a bad thing for me. I’m in a good situation. Whether there’s a lot of options or not, I’m in a very good situation. As a player, you can decide what you want to do. And I have a lot of money to decide if I want to take it or not. It’s not a bad thing, because I worked my butt of for it over my career, so no rush in my mind.”

That’s where the clarity comes in, as Wade indicated the front office said it wants a clear path moving forward. On a team that had so many young players thrust into prominent positions then shuffled out of them, one wonders if they’ll pick a few to grow with and then try to replace the rest with veteran reinforcements to maximize Butler’s prime and Wade’s time.

Either way, the limbo is a bit old, it seems from all parties involved.

“Yeah, we definitely talked. We said it to each other. I think they want a defined vision and view of where they're going too,” Wade said. “And as players, with player options, you want that too. I want that. I want it smack dead in my face. Of how it's gonna be. And from them, too. What their thought of my role or position could be here. All of it. It's not just one-sided. It's definitely from both sides.”

“I look forward to the opportunity where we sit down and have that face to face about what both sides wanna to do. Either way it goes, whether it’s me here, not here, it'll be something that's mutually talked about. I'm a firm believer in talking to people, and I will never make a decision and not tell them I'm making a decision, whether I come back or not, I'll definitely talk to those guys and be very open about where my mind is and what I'm thinking and I want them to be the same way.”

Communication was a big part of the Wade experience this season, whether he returns or not. He seemed to be more invested than people would’ve expected earlier in the season, before the Jan. 25 loss to the Atlanta Hawks where the Bulls blew a 10-point lead in the final three minutes.

Wade and Butler called out their teammates in the postgame, followed by Rondo crafting an Instagram post the next day calling out Wade and Butler. It was a firestorm of the worst kind.

Some would’ve called it necessary considering Wade’s standing in the league but the Bulls believed otherwise, fining Wade and Butler and then benching the two the next game against Miami.

It seemed to sting Wade, who believed his opinions were valued by the organization because of his experience, and that type of pushback had never happened to him in Miami.

“As a player, obviously I want to use my voice the way I want to use it,” Wade said. “As an organization, they didn’t appreciate the way that it was said _ not what I said, but the way I said it. As I told Gar, I respect the decision on whatever they decided to do. I respected it, just like what I decided to do when I said what I said. My biggest thing with my message was just wanting to _ you can always look back on it and say, yeah, I could have done this, I could have done it differently.”

He tried to laugh it off in his media session but it clearly bothered him, at least in hindsight.

“You’ve got young guys, their whole career is in front of them,” Wade said. “I do things a certain way. I’ve done it in Miami. It’s just the way it is. I would do it again if I’m put in that position. But I respected their decision to fine me. I didn’t like the benching part. But I definitely respected their decision to fine me. It’s their organization. And what they decide from at the top, you live with it.”

But the difference between how Wade saw things and the young players dealing with inconsistencies was a direct result of how the team was put together and the fact the Bulls had a young coach in Fred Hoiberg who’s still learning his voice.

His level of patience in any process—even franchise purgatory—has to be speculated about. Most believe he wants to play two more years and evaluate his career from there.

“Losing, like I said, it’s never easy, especially when you’ve won championships before. Whenever you lose it always sucks, but you sit back and reflect on the positive, you look at the things that came out of it, and there’s always some good, more than bad. When you’re playing basketball for money at the top level, it’s not all bad. I definitely don’t regret my decision of being here this season.’’

After fighting through unspeakable adversity, Celtics 'enjoying the moment' with new perspective

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USA TODAY

After fighting through unspeakable adversity, Celtics 'enjoying the moment' with new perspective

Championship moments rarely occur in the first round. With a playoff format that drags the postseason out for more than two months, with playoff series taking as long as two weeks, the second season feels like just that. It’s far too early to say what exactly Friday night in Chicago will mean for the top-seeded Celtics, but a sense of a team coming together under unfathomable circumstances may prove to be the turning point in a season that a week ago appeared hanging by a thread.

It happened in three parts.

On the floor the Celtics looked every bit the part of a 51-win team that edged out LeBron’s Cavs for the top spot in the East. Brad Stevens’ small-ball approach came full-circle as the Boston guards lived in the paint against the Bulls, kicking out to open shooters for 16 3-pointers that helped the Celtics put away the game (and series) midway through the third quarter.

Avery Bradley starred for a second consecutive night, tallying 23 points while making Jimmy Butler work for his, while eight different Celtics hit a 3-pointer and the team shot 49 percent. For the first time in the series the Celtics looked dominant, like a team poised to contend with the Cavaliers for supremacy in the East.

“It felt good to play Celtic basketball again,” Avery Bradley said. “We were all smiling, having fun, and that’s what it’s supposed to be. That’s how hard we worked this entire year, to play that type of basketball.”

Isaiah Thomas was naturally somber much of the series. The well-documented death of his 22-year-old sister put a damper on the series before it began, and the MVP candidate understandably chose not to address it on the few occassions he spoke with the media. But Thomas looked more like himself as the series went on. Not only did his numbers improve, he appeared more vocal after made baskets, laughed off trash talk from Bulls point guard Isaiah Canaan, and engineered the Celtics' offense to near-perfection.

His defining moment came late in the third quarter with the Celtics nearing a 30-point lead. After a hard foul he gathered his four teammates in a huddle near the baseline and shouted that the series for the Bulls was "a wrap for these m------------!" This was the same player who two weeks earlier was brought to tears prior to Game 1, and who will bury his sister on Saturday in Tacoma, Washington. Under unthinkable circumstances, Thomas averaged 23.0 points and 5.7 assists in 34.8 minutes in the series.

“I feel like he has grown,” Al Horford said. "And we all have in a way with all the adversity that has gone on. It could have easily gone the other way, but I feel like especially tonight when we got the game in hand, in control, we all just kept on repeating to stay focused to keep it going, keep pushing. We didn’t want to give them any life and we were a focused group and we were enjoying the moment.”

Thomas' journey won't get easier. He'll have another short turnaround to get ready for Sunday's second-round matchup against the Celtics. But like his teammates did in Games 3 and 4, when Thomas flew by himself to Chicago following his return home to Tacoma to mourn with his family, they'll have another opporuntity to grow closer. Brad Stevens kept an incredible perspective on the situation throughout the series, and applauded his team for doing the same while still fighting for wins.

"Bigger things than basketball happened, and that took precedent and it takes precdedent," he said. "I was really proud of our guys for how they treated each other, how they stood together, stuck together. And how nobody pointed fingers, they were just a great support for one another, especially Isaiah."

When Thomas does return, and when the Celtics gear up for their next postseason journey, expectations will have remained the same. Though the Wizards were one of the league's best teams in the second half, and with John Wall and Bradley Beal playing on another level, it'll take more performances like Friday night - both on the court and collectively staying together - for Boston to advance. A 2-0 hole against the Wizards will feel a whole lot different than it did against the Bulls.

That sort of letdown doesn't feel like it will happen again. Though no one would have wished such tragedy to force it, the Celtics came together at a critical moment and came out better for it. Their work isn't done, and they know it. But the way they were able to handle the adversity in Round 1, anything seems possible for Stevens, Thomas the top seed in the East.

"We just try to stay the course in the day-to-day. And if that results in us winning more games or winning in the playoffs, or whatever the case may be, there’s only one goal in the Boston," Stevens said. "Seventeen (NBA championship) banners above us. We don’t have a choice. We only shoot for one thing there."