In 37 career playoff games, Derrick Rose has gone without a free-throw attempt in seven of them — and more pressing, twice in the two games thus far against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
So when it was suggested to Tom Thibodeau that he do something different strategically to put Rose in positions to earn trips to the line, he coyly turned the tables.
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Clearly not hard of hearing, Thibodeau wanted the entire press corps at attention so when Rose’s name came up, he jabbed again.
“Say that again,” he requested.
Then the words Thibodeau wanted to hear finally came tumbling out, to the desired affect.
“Derrick hasn’t gone to the line,” it was stated.
“Thank you,” Thibodeau said with a smile.
Thibodeau isn’t going to get fined by the league for criticizing its officiating, so he wants his message to be sent without saying it, much in the form of Pat Riley, Phil Jackson and Chuck Daly, master manipulators in terms of protecting their stars.
“You know he’s aggressive,” Thibodeau said. “There’s nobody like him. He’s got power, speed, strength, quickness, so he’s generating speed and there’s contact. And then it’s a judgement. So I guess he’s got to go harder.’’
Rose isn’t the player he was in 2011, when he went to the foul line 8.4 times a night in the playoffs. This time around, he’s much more perimeter oriented, getting to the charity stripe just 2.4 times this postseason.
But it doesn’t mean he’s strayed away from the basket altogether; he’s just not getting the benefit of the doubt from the officials — a stark contrast to his counterpart Kyrie Irving getting there 21 times in the first two games this series.
Heading into Game 3 tonight, one would think the gulf between Rose’s performances on a one-day rest against two days or more could be tightened if he could get to the foul line more.
“You don’t know how anyone will shoot the ball on a given night,” Thibodeau said. “You have to be able to deal with that. What you have to be able to count on are things you can control — your energy, your concentration, how you run the team, go out there and do your job.”
Rose himself wouldn’t like a stat line of 14 points, 6.7 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 5.5 turnovers on 30 percent shooting — which is what he does on a one day rest — compared to averaging 24.2 points, 6.7 assists and 2.7 turnovers on 48.1 percent shooting on two or more days rest.
The Bulls are aware of those stark statistics, they just hope things begin to trend in the other direction, pointing out he’s only two months removed from surgery on his right meniscus.
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“Gotta get out there and play. He has missed a lot of time,” Thibodeau said. “He’s working his way back. He had surgery again this year. It’s not only three years of rust but he played a good chunk the first half of the season and then missed a good chunk the second half. Each day, he’s feeling better and better. It’ll come around.”
And getting to the line would be a big part of that recovery.