Candyland: Bulls 108, Timberwolves 91
Derrick Rose is a special player. How special is obviously dependent on who you ask and more importantly, what they value. Now there’s certainly no shortage of metric centric posts available to espouse or denounce his worth, so let’s just take a moment to appreciate the obvious.
The Chicago Bulls offense isn’t very complicated. Granted, our defense doesn’t make teams work much, but this doesn’t make Rose’s freewheeling ruthlessness any less captivating. Standing alone at the top of the key, his teammates motionless as he conducts traffic; exactly the iso-heavy sets we’ve grown all too familiar with. Yet Rose’s mind bending athleticism makes every possession an adventure. With an incomprehensibly quick first step and a mere shift of his weight, the defense collapses, intent on denying him the lane and another clip for his highlight reel. While there would be no such shenanigans this evening, the ensuing passes to teammates resulting easy baskets count for two points just the same.
Chicago’s first few trips upcourt would set a tone for the rest of the game. A simple pick n’ roll with Carlos Boozer forces Kevin Love to help Luke Ridnour, who was scrambling to recover. Darko stepped up to protect the rim and Wesley Johnson slid away from his man, just in case. Rose intuitively left his feet and whipped a skip pass to Keith Bogans for an unchallenged eighteen footer. Sometimes, what you don’t see is what you get.
The next possession begins with Love and another fruitless effort to trap Rose, freed by a pick from Kurt Thomas. Preoccupied with Rose’s ability to finish, no one noticed Thomas, who popped out to the elbow for another open jumper. Thirty seconds later? Wash, rinse, repeat. After that? Another pick from Thomas, Rose darts past Luke, between Love and Beasley, and just as Darko steps forward to stifle a sure layup, Rose finds Boozer with a bounce pass for two more easy points. Besides Boozer, there isn’t another Bull who can consistently create his own shot, but Rose makes them all dangerous. That’s pretty valuable.
Rose consistently drew two defenders all night, but due to poor defensive communication and perhaps even worse fundamentals, it did more harm than good. Chicago, on the other hand, had no trouble suffocating our best efforts. Their ability to deny both the paint and the three pointer without gambling in the passing lanes is remarkable. They operate as a cohesive unit; each man aware of his responsibilities and prepared to support a teammate, should they fail to corral their assignment.
Luke Ridnour thought he found Kevin Love for an open three pointer, but as soon as he squared himself to the basket, Love was chased off the line by Kurt Thomas. Luol Deng slid in place to take the charge as Love rambled toward the paint. Kevin attempted to pass out of his drive to Michael Beasley only after it was too late. Deng deflected the pass and the Bulls were en route to an easy transition basket. For all of Rose’s brilliance, the most notable difference in this contest may have been that there isn’t one Bull who can be singled out as a poor defender, and that my friends, is a testament to Tom Thibodeau.
Leading by twenty points, with minutes remaining in the third quarter, Wayne Ellington and Anthony Randolph raced towards the rim and capitalized on a two on one fast break. Incensed with his team’s poor effort, Thib immediately signaled for a timeout and tore into his team. Minutes later, Jonny Flynn flipped a no look pass to Randolph who slammed it home. Again, Thib calls for time and lets them hear about it. Two fairly excusable plays, outmanned and outfoxed. Yet still, two diatribes and no excuses. Who does that?
Now if Kurt Rambis were so demonstrative, we’d question if it was necessary. Overbearing, even. The difference, however is that the Bulls are playing for much higher stakes. During our last chat, we wondered if our relatively close games with such powerhouses should be attributed to our exemplary effort or our opponents sheer boredom. Tonight, there were no such questions. While Rose’s MVP candidacy will be debated long after he is handed or denied his trophy, there should be no question that Thibodeau is Coach of the Year. He immediately established a culture of hard work and accountability, making the whole far greater than the sum of its parts.
The question this time around, is what could a man like that do for us?