Rose takes over, wills Bulls to victory yet again

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Rose takes over, wills Bulls to victory yet again

Saturday, March 26, 2011
Posted 10:00 p.m. Updated 11:48 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE It was the type of performance that an observer completely unfamiliar with his work could see and immediately jump on the MVP bandwagon. With the Bulls down double digits in the second half, Derrick Rose led a thrilling comeback effort with unselfishness and individual greatness to stun the Bucks, 95-87, Saturday night at the Bradley Center .

Rose: I didn't do s& yet

Just trying to take over the game, getting to the basket. You learn from every game that you play in, especially when its towards the end like that and I was just trying to win the game, Rose stated simply, as is his nature. When the chance is there, I just try to take the correct shot and tonight, it was driving the ball.

Elaborated Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: His will, the pace, making plays, scoring. Whatever we needed, he provided.

Hes done it all year, hes got to continue to do it and the thing I really respect about him is hes never satisfied, the even-keeled coach, who admitted he tries not to be in awe of Roses brilliance, continued. The important thing for him is the win. Hes not concerned with what hes doing individually. Hes more concerned about what our team is doing and his defense continues to improve.

After starting slow for the second consecutive evening Milwaukee got out to an early 15-8 leadthe Bulls played in catch-up mode, flipping the switch after a timeout. Chicago , playing in front of a Bradley Center crowd consisting of majority Bulls fans, stopped settling for jumpers in a nod to Thibodeaus inside-out preference.

Following the timeout, Rose (30 points, career-high 17 assists)serenaded with MVP chants from almost the outsetwent on a scintillating coast-to-coast jaunt for a three-point play and continued to assert himself offensively, driving to the basket relentlessly to either score or create opportunities for his teammates.

The home-standing Bucks, fighting for the Eastern Conferences final playoff spot, bent but didnt break, mustering up enough offense from swingmen Carlos Delfino (23 points) and John Salmons (25 points), the erstwhile Bull, to take a 25-21 lead into the second quarter.

Starter Luol Deng and four-fifths of the Bulls Bench Mob built upon the teams first-quarter momentum, tying the game in relatively short fashion, but the Bucks answered with a 5-0 run, prompting Thibodeau to call timeout and filter his regulars back into the contest. Once again, Milwaukee created some breathing room and once again, Chicago was forced to make a comeback.

Propelled by Rosehis lightning-speed crossover and equally amazing, acrobatic finish excited Bulls and Bucks fans alikethe visitors narrowed the gap, but true to form (at least the first half of this particular game), Milwaukee again opened up a comfortable winning margin, despite Roses ongoing heroics.

An exchange of baskets marked the end of the halffollowing yet another Rose three-point play with 3.9 seconds remaining, Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings (13 points) made a layup at the halftime buzzerafter which, the Bulls trailed, 48-44.

Salmons scorched his former team with four jumpers to start the third period, increasing Milwaukee s lead to double digits as part of a 12-1 Bucks run that ended with the first of two Keith Bogans three-pointers in a short span.

Although the lid finally came off the rim for the Bulls, it didnt come off for the home team, as Salmons hot handthe well-traveled veteran scored 12 third-quarter pointswouldnt cool off and he received able assistance from his teammates.

Chicago predictably stormed back, as Roses playmaking abilityon consecutive possessions, he made spectacular dishes that resulted in Bulls layupsled the charge to make it a competitive affair again. At the conclusion of three periods, however, Milwaukee still held on to a 74-69 advantage.

Trying to play hard, thats the biggest thing. Staying together, we fought our way back, explained Rose of his approach. If you look at the game, in the third quarter, I was just trying to feel the game out. I probably didnt shoot that much, just passing the ball. Just trying to beat the double team as a passer and it was rolling for us. Guys were finishing the baskets and we were playing an up-tempo type game.

Its almost the same thing. people always change up. First, they go under screens. Stopped that. Go over the top, just me one-on-one with the big. Kind of learned how to deal with that. Sending a third person over, the shooters have got to be ready to shoot. Ive almost seen every coverage you could possibly believe theyd be in, continued Rose, discussing the defensive strategy of Milwaukee and other teams against him. Just get the ball out of my handsme putting pressure on them opens up everybody on the court.

Early in the year when they were double-teaming me, I was forcing shotsjust forcing them, just to be forcing thembut now, Im getting into the lane, feeding that guys thats open and just leaving it up to them.

Added Thibodeau: They were trapping him and he was making the right plays. Thats what we want him to do. Hes very unselfish, created easy offense and he was in attack mode, put a lot of pressure on them and got us easy shots.

He studies, he prepares and I think that hes gotten to know his teammates a lot better. His teammates have gotten to know him a lot better and as you see the different defenses, you have to read and react very quickly, and knowing that hes so unselfish, I think it makes our team unselfish, he continued. Often times, hes getting trapped and theyre trying to get the ball out of his hands, and its the second pass thats getting us the wide-open shot. As long as everyones willing to pass the ball, it makes you a much more efficient team, much more difficult to guard.

A three-point play by Ronnie Brewer kicked off the fourth-quarter scoring and with a small-ball lineupRose and C.J. Watson together in the backcourtthe Bulls applied defensive pressure to the Bucks and looked to push the pace on offense.

Thibodeau eventually went back to a more conventional lineup, but that adjustment didnt put a cramp in Chicago s style, as the Bench Mob preserved the nature of the tight-knit battle heading into the games stretch run.
Carlos Boozer had a strong second half on the receiving end of numerous Derrick Rose assists and finished with a double-double of his own, scoring 14 points and reeling in 11 rebounds. (US PRESSWIRE)
Upon his return, Rose seamlessly blended his pass-first instincts (Carlos Boozer, who scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, was a beneficiary) and elite scoring abilitymostly getting to the charity stripe, as the Bucks struggled to defend him off the dribble and were thusly forced to put him on the foul linefamiliarly putting the team on his shoulders in crunch time as the game hung in the balance. Additionally, Chicago s defense buckled down to get stops on crucial Milwaukee possessions.

We have a lot of confidence in our defense and thats the strength of this team. We feel like were never out of it. Were fighters. Were a team of fighters and I think weve showed that since the beginning of the year. Even when we were going through adversitywed go down a lot, come backwe were always fighting. Were a team with a lot of character and were playing with a lot of swag right now.

If it wasnt a passhis fast-break assist to Joakim Noah (12 points, 11 rebounds) tied the game at 87 apieceRose made, then it was a basket, such as his tough runner in traffic to give the Bulls an 89-87 lead with 1:53 remaining to put the visitors up for the first time in the contest.

The All-Star point guard continued to work his magic, also hitting the next two shots to give the Bulls a 93-87 advantage with 42 seconds on the clock, a margin supported by Chicago s sound defensive efforts.

Derrick, with the pressure of the game, hes great in those situations. Hes got a lot of poise and a lot of confidence and I think that comes from his preparation. Hes ready to handle those things and he always makes the right play, whether its him finishing at the rim, pulling up or hitting an open teammate. And hes not afraid. He has great courage, said Thibodeau. Milwaukees playing extremely well. Theyre playing very, very hard. Theyre a tough team defensively. Its hard to get a good shot against them and Rose did whatever he had to do to put us in a position to win.

We dodged a bullet. We trailed most of the game. Thats two games in a row defensively we were very poor in the first half. Weve got to change that, he continued. This team has shown a lot of resolve all season long. The rebounding again was very good, but the slow starts are not something that we like, so were going to have to take a look at that to see how we can improve.

A Bucks turnover, resulting in a Rose-to-Brewer fast break and layup put the game away. Not only was it an exhilarating comeback, but another addition to Roses season resume, one that should conclude with a league MVP award and possibly further gratification, in the form of team postseason success.

But according to Rose, even this stellar performance couldnt convince him all the individual attention was justified.

Im getting there. Im learning every game, watching other great players in the NBA.

The worst thing you can do is give me confidence. No matter what Im doing, doing whatever. If I get any type of confidence, its going to be hard to stop me, said Rose. I didnt do anything yet. Ive still got a goal. Weve got to get to the second round. Thats what were trying to do now.

You can just feel the vibe in the locker room right now, were happy, he continued. Weve got a bunch of good guys who love playing with each other.

Were confident against anybody in the NBA. Weve proved we can play against all the best teams now.

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.

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."