Monday, Feb. 7, 2011
By Aggrey Sam
PORTLANDWith Bulls losses being few and far between this season, sometimes the smallest bump in the roadremember the gloom and doom after the two-game road losing streak last month to lesser lights New Jersey and Philadelphia?causes a great deal of consternation. When it comes to All-Star point guard Derrick Rose being off his game for an eveninghe recorded nine assists in Chicagos 101-90 defeat at the hands of the Warriors in Oakland Saturdayirrational implications that the Bulls are headed for a nose dive and subsequent crash landing become that much more magnified.
Derricks not going to play great in 82 straight games, quipped Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau prior to the teams morning shootaround at the Rose Garden, where they will face the Trail Blazers Monday night. Thats the reality of it. He wasnt at his best, but still, the guy scored 14 points, he had 10 assists.
For an ordinary player, not such a bad gameminus the turnovers, an aspect of Roses game he takes personally. But such an uncharacteristic outing for the superstar muddled the explanation of why it occurred in the first place.
Thats my first time ever seeing three people. Usually, its two, but last time they brought a third person over, explained Rose when asked about Golden States trapping defense, jibing with what he told reporters after Saturdays game. It seemed like I was Carmelo Anthony or something, or Kobe Bryant.
It was weird. I think I found the open person, looking at film and I think that we went over what were going to do about it. We will see how the Trail Blazers play us tonight. If they play us that way, I think weve got an answer for it, he continued. Of course it bothered me that night, but we play another game tonight to redeem ourselves.
I never was able to get into the game. In the beginning, a couple of plays. Never got that feeling.
Thibodeaus view of his stars subpar performance slightly differed.
Really, Golden State did nothing that we havent seen before and when you study what happened, most of his turnovers came in transition and on isolation plays. The double team or the trap, hes seen that all year, said the coach. In the third quarter, when theyre up 12, no ones talking about, What are they doing to Derrick? Most of his turnovers were mishandles in transition when you study the tape.
Regardless, when asked specifically Rose wouldnt let one poor game lead to a downward spiral and how the team in general would rebound, Rose and Thibodeau were on the same page.
Just do the opposite of what I did the last gamethats the biggest thingso turnovers, definitely that and just staying aggressive, said the point guard. I think that our defense is going to have to lead us tonight, if anything, because offensively, I think were all right, but our defense wasnt there that game. It seemed like we were trying to outscore them instead of stopping them and that was hurting us.
Recounted Thibodeau: In the fourth quarter, thats when we struggled. When Derrick went out of the game, we had a hard time. Thats when they got their cushion. And I liked a lot of the shots that we got off the pick-and-rollthats how we got the 12-point lead in the third quarterwhen you study the plays that Derrick and Carlos Boozer made off the pick-and-roll, thats how we got the lead.
The thing that concerned me more than anything else was we went into the game and our defense wasnt what it should have been, so when we had the 12-point lead and we missed some open shotsKeith Bogans had a wide-open three, which is his shot, from the cornerwe had no floor balance, they come down and get a two-on-onefast break, Thibodeau continued. What we do have control over is getting back in transition on the raise of the shot, protecting our basket. We couldnt count on our defense when we needed it the most, which is the fourth quarter; we gave up 28 points.
If we have our normal defense from the start of the game, that should carry us through, which we didnt have. So, Im more concerned about how we approached that game from a defensive standpoint than from an offensive standpoint. We shot 47 percent. Thats the big concern; the 31 points that they got in transition.
As far as Mondays opponent, Portland, both player and coach understand it will be a different ballgame than the frenetic, run-and-gun style the Warriors sucked the Bulls into Saturday.
I think that were used to this game, instead of the Golden State game, where it was up and down, up and down. I think that were used to pushing it sometimes, stopping, slowing it down, going into high-low, space outa game like that, Rose remarked. They almost do the same. Pick-and-roll, sometimes throw it into Aldridge, everybody spaces. Its like an isolationa lot of late isolationbut well see how tonight goes.
Thibodeau added: This team, theyve got a lot and Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan has done a great job with them. Theyve had a number of injuries throughout the season and hes kept them together, and theyre a tough team to play.
Despite Portlands winning record, injuries have historically plagued them and this seasons been no exception. Not only has it been another wasted campaign for former No. 1 pick Greg Oden, but fellow centers Marcus Camby and Joel Pryzbilla (now back in the lineup) have also gone down, not to mention star guard Brandon Roy.
Somehow though, the Blazers have managed to pick up the pieces, with power forward LaMarcus Aldridge emerging as a go-to scorer in Roys absence, with free-agent acquisition Wesley Matthewslike Bulls Boozer, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver, Matthews is a Utah expatriate; the second-year swingmans contract raised eyebrows in the summer, but he seems like a bargain these daysalso stepping up on the perimeter with veteran floor general Andre Miller, French small forward Nicolas Batum and formerly disgruntled Spanish reserve sharpshooter Rudy Fernandez, once considered a potential Bulls trade target.
Aldridge is having a monster season. Since Roys been out, hes over 25 points a game and he can do it a number of different ways. Hes got a terrific post-up game and hes very good facing the basket, said Thibodeau. His touch away from the basket18 feetis automatic, so you have to close to him like youre closing to a guard and hes very confident down there.
Sometimes I think the thing that gets overlooked with this team is Andre Miller. I think Andre Miller does a great job of running a team and he also has the ability to make you pay for every body-position mistake that you make. When theyre running their catch-and-shoot plays, hes very good at finding the screeners insidetheyre very good at slipping screenshes one of the best lob passers in the game, hes an underrated shooter from 17 feet and hes a terrific post-up player, he continued. Matthews is having a terrific season, Fernandez is really coming on, so they can hurt you with the three, Batum has been very, very good for them.
Added Rose: I know its hard for them right now, where a guy Roy that was scoring what, 20-something points is gone. Aldridge is taking over and hes doing a great job.
Were missing Joakim Noah right now, theyre missing a key player.
So when impatience about Noahs return from injuryslated for after the All-Star breaksets in and despair about a lone off night (after six consecutive wins) against an unorthodox-styled squad rises to the surface, keep in mind that things could be a lot tougher, but still manageable. Ask the Blazers.
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.