Rose leads Bulls over Clippers in 'personal' win

378565.jpg

Rose leads Bulls over Clippers in 'personal' win

Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011
Posted 11:58 p.m

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

LOS ANGELESVery personal. Thats how Derrick Rose described his approach to Wednesday nights 106-88 Bulls (34-14) winthe teams sixth consecutive victoryover the Clippers (19-29) at the Staples Center. In a battle of two of the games most exciting young players, the Bulls' All-Star point guard out-dueled rookie sensation Blake Griffin, exacting some revenge in the process.

The games two featured attractions lived up to the hype from the outset, with Rose scoring nine of the Bulls first 16 points and Griffin pouring in eight of the Clippers first 14 before the contests first timeout.

Rose (32 points, 11 assists, 4-for-8 on three-pointers) shelled the home teamand former coach, Vinny Del Negrowith his improved jumper, as well as his fearless and acrobatic driving finishes to the rim, thrilling the Staples Center crowd. Rose also got his teammates involved, finding the likes of Keith Bogans, Luol Deng (26 points, six rebounds, five assists, 3-for-6 on three-pointers) and Carlos Boozer (16 points, 10 rebounds) for assists.

They beat us last time. I wanted some revenge. It was because of me that we lost. I missed the free throw and that really hurt me, said Rose. In these types of games, you never want to be in those situations, where a free throw is the reason why we lost the game. We just wanted to come out here and be aggressive, and just try to take control of the game early.

Im the reason why we lost last time. I couldnt take the game into overtime, he continued. Tonight, I just tried to pull the game away and make it a comfortable game.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Thats who he is. Hes never satisfied, he wants the team to do well, hes always driving himself to get better. I thought he had great command in this game.

The way he started off this game set the tone for us. Very aggressive in the pick-and-roll, running the team, aggressive defensively, he went on to say. When hes going like that, it lifts the whole team.

Griffin (32 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists) didnt disappoint either, displaying a mid-range jumper to go with his relentlessness around the rim. A fast-paced affair at the beginning, the games speed waned a bit as the opening quarter went on, but Rose and Griffin both picked up the pace toward the end of the period, which ended with the Bulls holding a 28-23 advantage.

Chicagos second unit sustained the visitors lead, with reserve big man Taj Gibson (nine points, 12 rebounds)in a return to the city where he went to college at USCplaying with energy on the interior and both backup point guard C.J. Watson (nine points, 2-for-3 on three-pointers) and designated sharpshooter Kyle Korver (eight points, four assists, 2-for-5 on three-pointers) providing timely offense. Behind their bench, the Bulls lead surged to double digits before Thibodeau began to filter his regulars back into the contest.

The Clippers, however, were in no mood to lie down and made it a competitive affair, exciting an already-energized crowd. Starting shooting guard Randy Foye (14 points, four assists) sparked the home team, then a show-stopping alley-oop dunk by Griffin nearly brought down the house.

Deng, quietly having a solid night, made his presence felt in a louder fashion, drilling a pair of three-pointers to give the Bulls some breathing room. A flashpoint in the contest came when Griffinwho went on an individual tear late in the halfattempted a monster dunk and was fouled hard by Boozer (veteran Kurt Thomas, saddled with three first-half fouls, also laid some wood on the rookie previously in the quarter), earning a debatable flagrant foul call from the officials. Despite that, the Bulls led, 55-49, at the intermission.

Chicago started the second half on a 6-0 run, which was capped by a Clippers timeout and a technical foul on point guard Baron Davis (10 points, three assists). Rose, aided by Deng, propelled the Bulls during this stretch, and their winning margin grew to a comfortable cushion.

Boozer (benefiting greatly from Roses playmaking) began to assert himself, helping to sustain Chicagos double-figure lead. The home team again battled back, however, and behind journeyman forwards Ryan Gomes (16 points, six rebounds) and Ike Diogu, the Clippers briefly made it a single-digit affair, until a Rose three-pointer late in the quarter made it an 82-71 game after three periods of play.

Watson continued to be effective in relief of Rose, helping the Bulls keep the Clippers at bay until the All-Star point guard returned to the floor, despite Boozer picking up his third, fourth and fifth fouls in rapid succession. Although another Griffin highlight dunk got the home crowds attention, timely individual efforts by Rose and Gibson dampened their enthusiasm.

Afterwards, Thibodeau spoke proudly about how his team limited Griffins second-half scoring.

First half, Griffin just had his way, but I thought offensively we were good, I thought our rebounding was very good, I thought we shared the ball. Second half, I thought our defense was a lot better, he remarked. I didnt like him getting 25 first-half points, but we showed resiliency. We stayed with the plan, we really didnt adjust. It was just doing it better in the second half. We made him work, our help was a little bit better. Griffins a great player.

Gibson shared his coachs sentiments.

After the first half, it was frustrating because we talked about what we wanted to do in the beginning at shootaround. He had 25 points and that was embarrassing, Gibson told CSNChicago.com. Me and Kurt just switched out on him, tried to make his touches hard, force him to do things he didnt want to do. Hes a phenomenal player. We just played real tough tonight.

With the sellout crowds energy fading as the games stretch run approached, the home teams effort followed suit. Thibodeau didnt relax, however (he was assessed with a late technical foul) and neither did his players. A Korver three-pointer took the final gasp of air out of the building and after a Deng steal and subsequent layup on the other end, the game was effectively over, but not until a Rose jumper with under 10 seconds to go put his personal stamp on things.

Very personal, in fact.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's 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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

usatsi_9965113.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000), Brian Hedger (nhl.com) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel.  The Bulls beat the Pistons in a game with huge playoff implication.  So could they actually make the postseason?

The Blackhawks are closing in one division title but what’s their biggest weakness?

Plus Theo Epstein’s a really great leader, Kyle Hendricks is going to have to wait a while to pitch plus DeShone Kizer loves the band “Chicago” but will he play here?

NBA Buzz: 2017 Draft could be the best in more than a decade

NBA Buzz: 2017 Draft could be the best in more than a decade

If you've been watching the NCAA Tournament closely, it's apparent this June's draft will include a number of elite prospects, maybe the best top 10 talent since the LeBron, Melo, Bosh, Wade draft in 2003. 

Washington didn't qualify for the tournament, but NBA scouts seem to be in agreement that Washington point guard Markelle Fultz will be the No. 1 pick. The 6-foot-4 freshman has the size and ball-handling ability to play either guard spot, and word out of Boston is Fultz will be the pick if the Celtics get the first choice in the draft lottery.

UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball put on quite a show in the Bruins' win over Cincinnati on Sunday, finishing with 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. The 6-foot-6 Ball reminds scouts of a young Jason Kidd, showing amazing court vision and passing skills with the size to see over the top of smaller defenders. And don't caught up in his unusual shooting form. Ball can knock down shots, hitting almost 56 percent from the field this season and 42 percent beyond the 3-point line.

The other consensus top-3 prospect is Kansas small forward Josh Jackson. The 6-foot-8 Jackson is an Andrew Wiggins clone who has amazing quickness and finishing ability. Jackson improved his draft stock with a sensational performance in the first two games of the tournament. If the Bulls decide to trade Jimmy Butler in a deal for one of the top picks this June, the rangy 20-year-old Jackson would be an ideal replacement. If he ever gets a consistent jump shot, look out. We could be talking about a 25 points per game scorer.

Since Fultz, Ball and Jackson appear to be the kind of players NBA teams build around, the Bulls could potentially negotiate with the teams holding the top 3 picks for the best possible Butler deal. Right now, the Nets (pick will be swapped with Boston), Lakers and Suns own the worst records, and if the order isn't changed by the lottery, the Bulls could obtain a quality package centered around this year's first-round pick and a quality young player from any of the three teams.

Here's a look at how the lottery selections could fall based on the draft order as of March 23.

1. CELTICS (from Brooklyn)  Markelle Fultz  PG   Washington
2. LAKERS                              Lonzo Ball        PG    UCLA
3. SUNS                                  Josh Jackson   SF    Kansas
4. MAGIC                                Jayson Tatum   SF     Duke
5. 76'ers                                  De'Aaron Fox     PG    Kentucky
6. KINGS                                  Malik Monk         SG    Kentucky
7. KNICKS                               Dennis Smith      PG   N. Carolina St.
8. TIMBERWOLVES              Lauri Markkanen  PF    Arizona
9. KINGS (from Pelicans)       Frank Ntilikina      PG    France
10. MAVS                                 Miles Bridges    SF    Michigan St.
11. HORNETS                         Jonathan Isaac   SF    Florida St.
12. BLAZERS                          Justin Jackson   SF    N. Carolina
13. PISTONS                           John Collins      PF     Wake Forest       
14. BULLS                                OG Anunoby     SG-SF   Indiana  

Alright Bulls fans, I'm sure you're asking, why would the Bulls want to draft a player coming off a serious knee injury? Well, the Bulls haven't done all that well drafting productive older players from major programs, so why not roll the dice on a 19-year-old who could develop into the next Butler?

Scouts raved about Anunoby's potential heading into his sophomore season at Indiana. At 6-foot-8, Anunoby has good positional size to play both the small forward and shooting guard spots and figures to be a plus-defender from Day 1 in the NBA. Right now, his rehab from right knee surgery and lack of a consistent jump shot are the biggest concerns, but looking at mock drafts in the 13-20 range, do the Bulls really want to take a project big man or a mystery international player? 

Even if it takes a couple years for Anunoby to reach his ultimate potential, he seems like a good choice in today's position-less NBA. Plus, in the Bulls' current position, they need to take some chances and try to get lucky in landing a future star.

Two other athletic possibilities who are projected as late 1st round picks right now are SMU junior swingman Semi Ojeleye, a 6-foot-7 bundle of energy and muscle who should be able to contribute right away, and Oklahoma St. point guard Jawun Evans, one of the fastest players in the college game who could ignite the Bulls' fast break after Rajon Rondo moves on.

AROUND THE ASSOCIATION

If the Bulls are going to make a late season run to the playoffs, they'll have to find a way to pass two of the league's hottest teams. Milwaukee has won eight of its last 10 games to pull into a 6th place tie with the Pacers, while Miami has been one of the league's biggest surprises over the last two months, going from an 11-30 record on January 13 to 35-36, and a game and a half lead over the Bulls and Pistons for the final playoff spot.

Both late surges are surprising, especially the job Erik Spoelstra has done in Miami. After the controversial departure of Dwyane Wade, Pat Riley decided to hedge his bets for the future and signed a number of journeyman veteran types like Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, Derrick Williams and Willie Reed to short-term contracts.

Williams was released and signed on with Cleveland, but Spoelstra and his staff have done a masterful job in piecing together a roster with a lot of duplication into a consistent winning team. Hassan Whiteside has continued to improve, averaging 17 points and 14 rebounds, while the guard rotation of Waiters, Goran Dragic, Ellington and Tyler Johnson has been especially effective.

Bulls fans will remember James Johnson as a guy who arrived from Wake Forest with a lot of potential, but went on to bounce around the league with little success. Now that he's finally in optimal physical shape, Johnson is averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3.5 assists off the bench while doing a strong job on the defensive end.

Spoelstra probably won't win the Coach of the Year award, but it might be his best job yet after losing Wade and Chris Bosh, then seeing promising second-year forward Justise Winslow go out with a season-ending shoulder injury.

It's been a different story in Milwaukee, where the Bucks got off to a fast start behind the amazing rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo to All-Star status. A mid-season slump dropped the Bucks out of the top 8 in the East, and when Chicago native Jabari Parker suffered another devastating ACL injury, it appeared Milwaukee was heading towards another trip to the lottery.

But Bucks' coach Jason Kidd got Khris Middleton back from a hamstring injury, and inserted rookies Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon into the starting lineup. All of a sudden, the Bucks took off with Antetokounmpo getting back to his early season production, and the bench unit of Greg Monroe, John Henson, Michael Beasley, Mirza Teletovic, Matthew Dellavedova and Jason Terry becoming a real strength.

It's unlikely either Milwaukee or Miami will be a threat to Cleveland and Boston in the opening round of the playoffs, but the hard work and persistence of those coaching staffs should not be overlooked.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Yet another example of the Bulls' maddening inconsistency under Fred Hoiberg over the last 2 seasons is the number of impressive wins offset by blowout losses.

These numbers courtesy of CSN's stats cruncher, Chris Kamka.

Bulls 20+ point wins and 20+ point losses

(with Fred Hoiberg as Head Coach)

                 20+ point wins             20+ point losses

2016-17              6                           7
2015-16              3                           7

total                      9                          14
========================================
(With Tom Thibodeau as Head Coach)

2014-15              7                           1
2013-14              7                           4
2012-13              5                           5
2011-12             14                          0
2010-11              8                          1

total                     41                         11

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

I'm pretty sure Hoiberg was being sarcastic when asked early in the week if battling for one of the final playoff spots in the East is "fun".

The coach's response? "It's miserable." 

Hoiberg won't get a lot of argument from Bulls fans who see their team stuck in the middle among the 30 NBA franchises right now. That's the worst place to be in professional sports, with no hope of contending for championships and little chance of getting a franchise-changing talent in the draft.