Sunday, March 4, 2012
Rose wouldn't be denied in Philly this time
By Nick Friedell
PHILADELPHIA -- Having played with Derrick Rose for almost four years, Joakim Noah has a pretty good idea when his close friend is about to take over a game.
It might as well be the happy-go-lucky center's sixth sense. He can see the way Rose prepares for a game and he hears what the 23-year-old says. He knows that Rose has a long memory and he knew that the young point guard badly wanted to pay back the Philadelphia 76ers for crushing the Bulls last month.
The Bulls' Derrick Rose scored 35 points in Sunday's win over the 76ers.
There's not a bat signal that goes up around the Bulls huddle, there's just a feeling that Noah gets when he knows another team is in trouble.
"Well he has the ball in his hands, so he usually just does it. And you've just got to follow his lead," Noah explained in a happy Bulls' locker room late Sunday night. "There's no look in his eye. There's no twinkle in his eye, none of that. The glare doesn't change, no."
But the confidence level around his team does. Like the rest of his teammates, Noah knew that Rose would carry the Bulls on Sunday night. Rose desperately wants to win every game he plays in, but there are a handful of games each season he takes personally. Usually, the intense feelings he harbors towards an opponent come from a past experience. In this case, Rose couldn't shake the feelings he felt after the Sixers obliterated his team the last time they played at Wells Fargo Arena. On Sunday morning, he admitted that he struggled to even watch tape from the Feb. 2 contest in which the Bulls were outplayed in almost every facet of the game.
"I was just excited to play them again," Rose said after dropping 35 points on the Sixers in a rugged 96-91 win. "I remember playing them here a little while ago and they got the best of us. They're a good team and I just couldn't wait to play them again."
The rest of the NBA should know by now that when Rose makes up his mind to take over a game, that's exactly what he does. The speedy point guard took over early and kept the Bulls in it even when the rest of his teammates struggled to keep up.
"I know in the beginning of the game that's definitely what I have to do with this team, lead by example," he said. "We let them score the ball a little bit too easy in the beginning and that kind of hurt us. But we fought our way back into the game and got the win."
In the process, the Bulls also sent a message to the Sixers, a team they could very well see again later in the postseason -- Good luck trying to stop Derrick Rose.
"Derrick was great," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "They tried different things to try and stop him and he kept coming up big and making big plays."
The only issue for the Bulls on this night was the same one that has reared its ugly head before. If Rose has to play 42 minutes every night for the Bulls to pick up wins in the middle of the regular season, how will he be able to perform at a high level later in the postseason? Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau chuckled off the notion that there was too much pressure on Rose to score sometimes.
"It comes down to your primary scorers in every game," Thibodeau said. "For every team. It's your three primary scorers. It's not any one particular guy. Any time teams are trapping, you need shooting on the floor. And you need 3-point shooting. And then you need a low post guy. And you need offensive rebounding. You need all those things. I think we moved the ball pretty well. I thought our movement could have been a little bit better tonight. Any time a team is trapping like that, it's not necessarily the first pass, it's more the second pass. And so having the ability to sustain our spacing is critical. And I think we've got to get to our spots a little bit quicker, but overall I was very pleased."
So was Rose.
He wanted to prove to the Sixers that he could break their will when given the chance. That's exactly what he did with a little help from his teammates down the stretch. Deng and C.J. Watson hit a couple big shots down the stretch, but it was Rose who made the play of the night with just over 20 seconds left in the game. He hit a running floater that sealed the game. It was the kind of play that he never doubted he would make on Sunday night.
"I just try to do whatever it takes to win that game," he said. "Whether it's passing, scoring, making plays, whatever. Tonight was making shots."
As usual, he made just enough to get the job done.