Monday, Dec. 12, 2010
Posted 9:30 PM Updated 12:08 AM
By Aggrey Sam
The Bulls (15-8) sixth straight victory, a 92-73 triumph over the Pacers (11-12) at the United Center, was marred by a series of injuries to superstar point guard Derrick Rose Monday evening.
Rose injured his right wrist and left ankle late in the game, as Chicago pulled away from Central Division rival Indiana. Following a fast start, the Pacers roared back, but improved defense (holding the Pacers to a season-low point total, the third straight time the Bulls have done that to an opponent) and rebounding, along with strong play from Carlos Boozer carried the team in the second half.
An aggressive and focused Bulls squad came out with a purpose, starting the game on a 14-2 run within a blink of an eye (in actuality, by the 9:16 mark of the first quarter), prompting a timeout by dour Pacers head man Jim OBrien.
Any Indiana adjustments made during the break didnt seem to make an immediate impact, as the Bulls continued to play stifling defense (aided by unforced errors by the Pacers), and kept up their balanced offensive play and torrid shooting.
You have to realize as a player, you never have it figured out. We want to play with pop every time, even when we start games flat, its not like we try to do that. We try to come out with pop every night, said Joakim Noah. I feel like the last couple games, weve been doing a good job with the right mindset, coming out jumping on teams. Weve got to keep doing that.
Boozer (22 points, 18 rebounds, four assists), in particular, established himself in the low post and on the boards, while Rose (17 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, 3-for-6 from 3-point range) proved his recent hot streak from behind the arc was no fluke by nailing a pair of triples in the early going.
Indiana eventually picked up its play, preventing the contest from being a complete laugher, as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went to his bench early (two fouls on Rose was one reason he was forced to use his depth) and the opening quarter ended with Chicago holding a 27-18 advantage.
Both teams would cool off in the second period (after the Pacers picked up their shooting percentage following the Bulls initial blitz), but the Bulls poor shot selection mostly abandoning the inside-first approach that worked so well at the games start permitted the Pacers to get back into the contest, closing to within a sole point midway through the quarter.
Small forward Mike Dunleavy (12 points) and backup point guard T.J. Ford (13 points) were Indianas main catalysts, with virtually matching Chicago on the glass also playing a part in the comeback.
The visitors actually overtook the Bulls after a follow-up dunk by forward Josh McRoberts (he then duplicated the feat on the Pacers next trip), completely turning the tables on the Bulls, whose discombobulated state was best illustrated by a technical foul on the normally mild-mannered Rose and Indianas rebounding advantage, a rarity for an opponent of Chicago.
Some late Rose heroics he had a quietly well-rounded half as a scorer (although not efficient shooting the ball), distributor and rebounder put the Bulls up, 43-41, at the break.
We came out ready to playthe thing that concerned me more than anything was our rebounding in the second quarter. They were taking threes and there were long rebounds. I thought we were leaking out and they were beating us to a lot of loose balls, said Thibodeau. Weve been an above-average rebounding team the whole year.
That being saidwe have to rebound with all five and I didnt think we were doing that. We were trying to get out on the break and you cant do that against a team like this because thats also another way they get some open threes. Theyre very good at chasing down those long rebounds, quickly swinging the ball and now youre giving up a wide-open three on the weak side. I thought that was the biggest problem that we had. I think offensively, that team is very hard to guard because of all the stuff that they do.
Added Boozer: I think one of our strengths is running, but we have to rebound and defendwe cant get out on the fast break if were taking the ball out of the net. When we do a good job defending and rebounding, we can get into transition. We have the fastest point guard in the game and if we get out and run, it gets everybody open shots.
Noah discussed Thibodeaus visibly frustrated demeanor heading into halftime with reporters afterwards.
Hes always hot. What do you mean? That was the most animated youve seen him? Hes animated 24-7, quipped Noah. Thibs is usually right, even though sometimes you dont want to hear it. Thibs is usually right and he knows what hes talking about. Like I always say, hes somebody whos been in a championship locker room before and that means a lot because hes been there and he knows what it takes.
I think that they shot the ball very well during that stretch and our offense was kind of stagnant. Basketball is a game of runs, but obviously its not good when a team makes a big run like that, especially when youre up a lot, he went on to say. We have to do a better job of moving the ball and executing well, even when we have the lead.
A sluggish start to the third quarter saw Chicago build a slight cushion. It certainly wasnt pretty basketball, but the Bulls tightened the screws defensively, played through Boozer offensively and rebounded the ball in more typical fashion, taking away Indianas prior advantage on the boards and creating their own second-chance opportunities.
Im just trying to play off my teammates, really. I think I do a good job of playing off D-Rose because he attracts so much attention out there. I try to find open areas from him and when I get the ball, be aggressive, said Boozer. The other thing is, Im learning how to play with Jo, too. A lot of times, his man will come up, so I try to get him a couple passes early to get him going he got a couple of dunks but for the most part, Im playing off my teammates, being aggressive out there and rebounding.
I think as each game goes better, Im getting better on the defensive side, the rebounding side and my team can only go like this makes uphill motion.
Added Thibodeau: I think it was a compilationwhen they guarded him with a big, he went away from the basket and when they guarded him with a small, he went to the basket.
His reaction to the ball was really good tonight. You could see his timing coming around, he continued. Each game, I think hes getting more comfortable out there.
Noah chimed in with his two cents about his fellow post players effort.
I feel like Carlos had a big game for us tonight. He really changed the game with his rebounding and the way he can score on the pick-and-roll, the center observed.
In addition to Boozer, who mixed in mid-range jumpers with his low-post game, Noah (12 points, five rebounds, three blocked shots) also got things going with his finishes around the rim mostly courtesy of Roses playmaking and reserve forward Taj Gibson provided a spark off the bench late in the quarter. Heading into the final period, the Bulls led, 65-58.
A ho-hum fourth quarter got more lively when reserve swingman Ronnie Brewers slashing ability provided some energy to Chicago, still clinging to an ever-tenuous lead over the visitors.
Ronnie played extremely well, high energy. I think hes shooting the ball well now, hes running the floor, praised Thibodeau. He did a lot of good things out there."
Rose hurts ankle
A scary moment came midway through the period, when Rose went to the ground in pain, clutch at his left ankle, but he recovered quickly and walked back to the bench under his own power.
I twisted my ankle a little bit, but that wasnt anything. It was just a tweak, said Rose of the injury, which occurred at 5:30 in the fourth quarter. I landed on someones foot, I think, when I tried to jump and get the rebound and the way I came down, it was kind of weird. I landed on someones foot. Taj or or Lu, one of them.
Rose stayed in the game after a timeout and subsequently found Boozer for baskets on consecutive Bulls possessions to give the team a double-digit lead once again. Seemingly none worse for the wear, Rose would also connect on a pull-up jumper and a driving layup on back-to-back trips soon afterwards.
Rose hurts wrist
With Chicago having the game in hand, Rose went to the rim in his usual swashbuckling manner, but was undercut by Pacers swingman Brandon Rush (13 points), taking a hard fall with 1:56 remaining and staying on the court before walking off with the aid of Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi and clutching his right wrist in pain.
Derrick Rose lays on the court in noticeable pain, grabbing his wrist after going down hard on a drive to the basket. Rose says he'll need treatment on Tuesday but should be fine. (AP)
I thought it was going to be worse than that. it knocked the wind out of me. Most people, when they jump that high, they usually get hurt pretty bad, but thank God, I didnt break anything I think, explained Rose, who said the injury felt worse than the hits he took from Orlando center Dwight Howard last season. Im coming down, I thought my wrists both of my wrists were going to be messed up, but I just hit my one right wrist and my elbow and it really messed me up a little bit.
Tedsechi spoke to reporters afterwards.
It looks like he sprained his wrist. X-rays are negative and well re-evaluate him tomorrow, said Tedeschi, who added that the team will wait until Tuesday morning before deciding whether or not to perform an MRI. Well see how he is tomorrow and kind of go from there.
All the bones are in the right place, so from that point we know that its not too severe from a sprain standpoint. So, well keep our fingers crossed and hope it stays that way, he continued. He kind of tweaked his ankle a little bit, too. But thank God he had his ankle braces on, so I think that helped him a lot. Its 20 games into the season, so things are starting to add up.
As in the previous scenario, Rose returned to the game following a timeout, even shooting both of his free-throw attempts, making the second of the pair.
Fred asked him if he could shoot and he said, Yes, so he went to shoot and we were going to foul to stop the clock in order to sub Rose out of the game and he said he was all right, said Thibodeau. The way he went down, those are tough plays. He was in the air, he drove the ball hard. Their team defense was excellent, they reacted. It was a bang-bang play. The way he went down, it looked like he fell in an awkward way, so I was concerned.
Rose wasnt oblivious to the pain, but the competitor in the third-year point guard refused to leave the game.
I want to play, no matter what, unless I couldnt move it. I knew I could move it a little bit. I just wanted to hurry up and get it out of the way before it really got tight, said Rose. That whole time, it was hurting, but once again, thats basketball. Mind over matter. I remember telling Joakim that, especially with his situation. If you want to go out there and play, you can play through it.
It cant be anything serious. If that was the case, they would have told meIts just sore. I really dont know whats going on. Its just sore right now, very sore, but I should be fine.
Down the stretch, the Pacers fight decreased and the Bulls cruised the rest of the way. Small forward Luol Deng (15 points, nine rebounds) closed things out with five points to seal the deal.
Were not satisfied with where we are. We know were playing very well and thats exciting for everybody, but weve got to continue to improve. Weve got big goals, weve got great teams were going to have to play down the road and were just trying to prepare for those moments, said Boozer. "Sometimes in our conference and obviously this is a division game, as well its going to be a grind-out, tough game and thats what it was tonight. Weve been able to show that we can win grind-out, tough games.
Added Thibodeau: They played well. That team, down leading scorer Danny Granger, they competed really hard. In the second half, the ball moved better and I thought our rebounding was a lot better.
Said Noah: Overall, I think we played pretty well defensively and weve just got to keep getting better. Theyre still a lot of areas we need to improve on, but overall, I think were playing pretty good basketball.
Six in a row is good. Weve just got to keep it up. Its a good feelingWere playing good basketball right now.
In order to maintain their current momentum, a quick return to health or brief absence by Rose is of the utmost importance.
Its very sensitive right now, very sore. Ive probably got to get treatment all tomorrow and probably have to get stim electronic stimulation on it tonight and sleep on it, said Rose, feet in an ice bucket and wrist already wrapped. I hoped nothing was broken. That was my main concern. I can usually play through pain, but when something is fractured or something is broken, its kind of unbearable to go out there and try to play.
My whole body is sore right now, but I should be all right.
Keep your fingers crossed, Bulls fans.
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.