One running gag after the Chris Paul trade was that he'd be the de-facto coach of the Clippers with Vinny Del Negro merely a well-coiffed figurehair.
That may be true on offense. As Alex noted in his recap, the Clippers schemes were pretty simple but Chris Paul's superlative distributing skills made it work: created a lot of easy opportunities for their shooters and their bigs, the latter often living up to the 'Lob City' monicker the team has taken on. But while Vinny said pregame he hopes it's instead 'Win City' through employing the right fundamentals, his team showed on the defensive end that in that facet their coach is the village idiot.
Clips Nation lamented a lack of defensive rotations all night, as well as VDN running Paul and Griffin into the ground. Some of that can be blamed on roster construction, the Clippers starting bigs are not sound defenders and their depth is abysmal (as a first-hand observer of the Brian Cook era of Illini basketball, it pains me to see how much he blows). But defense on a team level is also about a mindset coming from the coach. Remember, the year Vinny took over the Bulls they dropped from 11th to 18th in defensive efficiency. Whereas not only did their new coach bring them back to top-5, you just know he's not entirely happy with last night and will work to improve it. You could see the lack of a Clippers team defensive concept with Chris Paul attempting to funnel Derrick Rose into should-be defenders that were mostly out of position looking to leap and block.
And Rose took advantage in what Noah called one of the best games of Rose's career. Chris Paul may have some of the skills noted above that Rose lacks, but Rose not only did a solid job slowing Paul down, but on offense Rose dominated the matchup with his own type of brilliance: creating his own looks, getting to the line (maybe the help of some Thibs lobbying?) and taking advantage of the late-collapsing defense with the Bulls open shooters chipping in. And to really distance ahead his team in the 4th, he knocked down some 3-pointers of his own.
I don't make too much of any rivalry sparking Rose's play (what happened after his 'grudge' against the Warriors?). What is interesting early has been the variance in the load he's carrying each game, the causal team results, and how that may play out for this screwy schedule. But for only Friday night, Rose and the Bulls were spectacular: their offensive efficiency mark of 126.7 was only topped 4 times in the Bulls 62 wins last season.
Other notes from the conclusion of a successful road trip:
- It sounds goofy, but during the game I really was unimpressed (to annoyed) with Blake Griffin. DaBullz.com noted some of his unnecessary dribbling, and he seemed to settle way to easily and often for jumpers. But maybe that's all biased because of seeing what he could do to clown Boozer, forcing the Bulls to switch to a moderately-more-effective Noah, so upon second reflection it's right to give him praise for creating such expectations in the first place, scoring 34 points and all.
- Alex bullet-pointed-out Deng's post-scoring in last night's game, and it is the continuation of what has been a really strong start to the season. I was particularly impressed to the way he finished off some reverse layups, deftness around the rim you usually don't see. Doug Thonus at ChicagoNow points out some things to watch, specifically that is 3pt% is down, and the minutes are still high. Ronnie Brewer is playing like he deserves more minutes, so it's a nice chance to kill two birds with one rotation-altering stone for Thibs.
- Doug also relays the interesting stat that Rip Hamilton is 3rd on the team in shot attempts this season. His performance still bears a lot more watching, the playmaking game he shows really opens up new avenues for the Bulls offense, but sometimes he looks like a player who still thinks he can do things his body can't. Kurt Helin was at the game and got some remarks from Rip on needing more time for assimilation, but here's to hoping Rip doesn't get too comfortable to the point where he's taking away opportunities from others.