All sorts of great faces here, guys. (Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE)
Sure he may have gotten unnecessary hype, too much love from ESPN, and has been used unfairly as a counterpoint to make 'selfish' stars seem worse by comparison...but I think despite all of that, Derrick Rose has followed it all up with an extremely good season, and put forth a dynamite second half in Monday night's victory over the Knicks. Most noticeably punctuated by this dunk, Rose had 19 of his 32 points in the half and had a well-rounded boxscore (6 rebounds, 7 assists) by the end as well.
I guess Jeremy Lin played alright too. He certainly wasn't destroyed by the MVP, but was definitely outclassed. Not entirely surprising since he is indeed a class (or three) below, but Lin had his moments in a pretty efficient outing, 8 assists with 15 points on 11 shots. He also showed some impressive hands on defense, and strangely enough his Knicks teammates did as well, though maybe it's because they're so poor at moving their feet.
Either due to a potential new rival (complete with beat writers supplying the trash talk for him) or feeling the pressure to compensate the loss of 3 backcourt mates, or both, or neither, Rose did look a bit out of control in the first half, alternating between over-penetrating on drives and settling for 3s. He was blocked by both Lin and Baron Davis (!), the latter play leaving him as outraged at the referees as I've ever seen him. He may not have gotten some calls, but Rose did get some superstar treatment by not getting T'd up as well as a crafty jump-into-the-defender move that left Mike D'Antoni with the technical foul himself.
Rose did his part in commanding the PG matchup, and the rest of this game was won on the glass. It's almost to a point where the missed shots are a quality basketball play (convenient with the injuries I suppose), with tonight being yet another 40%+ (43.1%) offensive rebounding rate, led by Taj Gibson's 8 in his 26 minutes (say it, Taj!). Tyson Chandler started the game out pretty well running on Carlos Boozer, and Amare Stoudemire had a few bursts of jumpshooting, but the Knicks frontcourt otherwise had their hands full stopping Gibson, Boozer and Joakim Noah. Noah was really impressive in his willingness to use his height advantage over Stoudemire in driving the lane. And like how it's questionable whether Boozer's game translates against the best defenses, you also can't expect yet for Noah to always be effective when he's this aggressive on offense (and he was just 5-11 after all), but doing so against the likes of the Knicks is a nice start.
Beyond Gibson, the depth of the Bulls shined all night, as Korver, Brewer, and Jimmy Butler all playing more than usual, and holding up just fine. Brewer had some good timing for one of his better-shooting games, and like in their last matchup Jimmy Butler proved to be a very quality defender on Carmelo Anthony. Especially late in the game when the Knicks looked destined for their 6th straight loss, the questions were floated out there as to why Melo wasn't getting the ball more and/or not effective when he did get it, and I think part of that answer was not Knicks-related at all but from Butler's size and technique on the defensive end.
As impressive as it is, even the Bulls depth showed it's limits as first-half foul trouble caused Brian Scalabrine to come in during actual competitive gameplay. The results make you figure that the Bulls will likely get some kind of 5th big man before the playoffs, but even mentioning such a thing only proves how deep the Bulls are. It may not help as much against Miami on Wednesday, or in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it could be what gets them that #1 seed. And if the Knicks are still in the 8th spot they're fighting for now, it may be a high-profile matchup but an extremely favorable one nonetheless.