This was an exciting game. It really, really was. It was great watching the Bulls beat up on another top Eastern Conference team in their building. The ball was moving, the shots were (mostly) falling and the defense looked better. But then, Derrick Rose went down with another non-contact injury and this individual game started to feel pretty unimportant. If you've not seen the video, check it out here. It looks an awful lot like Rose's ankle turned over again, but according to Nick Friedell, Rose has said that he thinks it was his hamstring.
Thibs says Rose will likely get MRI tomorrow. Rose told him he was fine and just thought he tweaked hamstring.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) November 14, 2014
The inspiration for this headline came from our own Ricky, who summed up my feelings on things rather nicely:
Will Derrick Rose ever stay healthy? Who cares, life is meaningless.— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) November 14, 2014
It's hard to think of anything other than Rose's injury, but I'm here to recap the game that was, and well, as I said above, it really was a fun one for almost all of it. Rose himself got off to a relatively slow start, going 0-3 on field goals in the first quarter. He struggled from the field all night, shooting just 5 of 14, but he was in attack mode the whole game, so he got to the line enough to put up 20 points anyway. As yfBB mentioned in the post-game thread, the Bulls bench unit in the second quarter was, um, awful. Doug McDermott in particular really struggled turning it over twice in a row, during a stretch in which the Bulls as a team turned it over 4 possessions in a row. Doug also took a beating on the other end trying to guard former Bull and current badass, James Johnson. Jimmy Johns went 6 for 6 in the second frame for 12 points. He was bullying everyone, not just Doug. He even scored on Jimmy Butler at one point. McDermott's fellow rookie Nikola Mirotic looked bad as well, and needless to say, Coach Thibs did not go back to them at all in the second half. Aaron Brooks had a rough second quarter as well, turning it over thrice and missing both of his field goal attempts in the second. For the game, Brooks was held scoreless on 4 shots, and played just 9 minutes. Regression to the mean is, well, mean.
The Bulls went into the half down 7, but they used suffocating defense to hold the Raptors to just 14 points in the third quarter, while racking up 35 points. As a team, Chicago shot 66.7% from the field in the third. They just got seemingly whatever they wanted. Pau was cooking, Dunleavy was hitting from outside, Taj was flushing easy finishes off of smart passes by his teammates. It was all working. This continued up until there were about 5 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, as the lead peaked at 18 points on this Rose fast break finish.
After that, the teams traded baskets until Kyle Lowry got fouled by Taj on a made basket for a potential and-one. Lowry then missed the free throw and the Bulls couldn't get the rebound (defensive rebounding is still a bit of a problem at times), and Amir Johnson got fouled and scored two more points from the line. It was basically a four point possession for the Raptors and gave them and their fans life in their building. Chicago followed that up by faltering badly in the face of a trap on Rose by Demar DeRozan and James Johnson that looked a lot like the old Miami Heat playoff strategy against Derrick with Johnson playing the LeBron role. The end result? A Kirk Hinrich running jump shot from behind the arc that was blocked by Terrence Ross as the shot clock expired. It was... sub-optimal. Kyle Lowry then came down and used an Amir Johnson screen to get free of Rose and hit a floater in the lane. A couple possessions later the Bulls turned it over, as Rose got hurt and lost the ball, which turned into a Terrence Ross made three cutting the lead all the way down to 7. Rose came out with a couple minutes remaining and the Bulls managed to hang on for the win.
There was a lot more going on and even though I'm feeling gloomy, let's re-live some of the awesome stuff from this game. JIMMY BUTLER MAX CONTRACT WATCH continues as he continued to dominate on both ends. He scored 21 points on 10 shots (!), grabbed 9 boards (all defensive), and dished 6 assists, while bringing his usual dominating defense. (For reference, Jimmy's primary matchup, Demar DeRozan was just 3 of 17 from the field en route to 10 points.) Jimmy has really grown a ton offensively. The six assists are great, but it's also been great to see how he's getting the assists. He's scoring and facilitating both out of the post and off-the-dribble. He's doing everything right now and it's really incredible to watch. He's making the Bulls look nuts for not locking him up at his $12 million a season asking price. They better get ready to crack open the checkbook this offseason, because Butler is earning his (likely) max deal every night right now. Oh, Jimmy also did this, which was all kinds of awesome:
Pau Gasol continues to be a revelation. I've complained rather loudly about Pau getting so much playing time, largely at the expense of Nikola Mirotic's development, and while I still think there's a better balance to be found, it's getting harder to maintain that stance with how well Gasol is playing (and how meh to bad Mirotic has been in his little stints). The Big Spaniard played 35 minutes (second on the team only behind Jimmy's 40) and logged 27 points on 19 shots and 11 rebounds. Pau absolutely took Jonas Valanciunas to school all game, abusing him over and over on the low block. It was great to see.
As a team, the Bulls were better on the defensive glass, holding Toronto to just 13 offensive rebounds on 54 misses or a 24.1% Offensive Rebounding Rate, which would be good enough for top 8 in the league if they'd held opponents to that rate all year so far. It helps that Noah seems to be moving a little better, which means opponents have to account for his activity, and 9 defensive rebounds each for Jimmy and Pau helps, too.
This was a really great team win. All of the main contributors were really on tonight and it showed just how good this team can be when things are clicking. Rose even looked back, until he got hurt again. Since we might not see him for a couple games, let's watch some highlights, kay?
Please be okay, Derrick. Pleeeeeease. If not, get well soon.