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Friday, December 30, 2011
Updated: December 31, 12:27 PM ET
Derrick Rose bests Chris Paul this time

By Pedro Moura
ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said before Friday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers that he had a long way to go before he approached certain aspects of Chris Paul's game.

Specifically, Rose said, Paul and the Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo are still in a class of their own in passing ability from the point guard position. He's not yet at their level, he said.

Derrick Rose and Chris Paul
Derrick Rose and Chris Paul put their contrasting styles to the test against each other on Friday.

Come game's end Friday, Rose's comments sounded more like self-deprecation than candor. He's not as far off Paul's pace as he made it seem.

The reigning NBA MVP had 16 assists to lead Chicago to a 114-101 win over the Clippers at Staples Center on Friday, out-passing Paul and out-shooting him, too.

"You just try to contain him," said Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who led all scorers with 34 points. "But he does so much for his team.

"He is tough, obviously."

Rose also had 29 points on 8-of-14 shooting and eight rebounds. The points, rebounds and assists were all season highs, and the assists were a league-high this week and just one short of his career-high.

Paul got going too, albeit to a lesser extent. Playing in just his third game for the Clippers after coming over in a trade from the New Orleans Hornets two weeks ago, the 6-foot guard had 15 points and 14 assists in 44 minutes.

The Bulls said he looked comfortable with the Clippers, even if the team didn't always look cohesive.

"Chris is Chris, no matter where he's at," Rose said. "He's going to play the same way -- as a pass-first point guard."

There was a notable short stretch at the start of the fourth quarter when the two virtually went one-on-one. When Blake Griffin checked out to begin the period, it was Paul and four Clipper reserves against Rose, Luol Deng and three reserves for about a minute and a half.

Both players did their team's only scoring in that span, Paul converting a 13-footer right away and Rose drawing a foul on a drive to the basket two possessions later.

There were a number of other Paul-versus-Rose moments in the game, including Rose's game-icing 3-pointer with six minutes left in the fourth and Paul's 21-foot step-back over Rose near the end of the first half.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau game-planned often against Paul's Hornets when he was an assistant coach for the division-rival Houston Rockets. Before the game, he called Paul "an offense unto himself."

"He can make something out of nothing," Thibodeau said. "If he feels like he needs to score more, he'll score more.

"If he feels like he needs to play-make more, he'll play-make more."

Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said the same of Rose, indicating his reputation as a shoot-first, pass-second player might be a little outdated at this point.

"If anyone says he's not a good passer, they need to re-adjust their thinking," Del Negro said.

Asked after Friday's game if he ever felt the contest placed a spotlight on the battle between the point guards, Paul shook his head.

"It's never a one-on-one game," he said. "It's a team game played by individuals. It's all about wins and losses, and they won the game."

Rose disagreed. He couldn't stop saying the moments where he was isolated against Paul -- on offense and defense -- were "fun," and teammate Joakim Noah said Rose had the matchup circled on his calendar once the NBA announced the new schedules earlier this month.

"In Chicago, that's what you live for," Rose said.

The Bulls coach offered a middle ground between the two viewpoints. It wasn't only Rose and Paul that impacted their team's fates -- but they both had huge impacts.

"People say it's a one-on-one game," Thibodeau said. "But if you look at their stats, they both had high assists to go with their high points.

"They both know what they're looking for, which can be anything.

Del Negro dismissed the concept of Rose not being a good passer. But Rose continues to maintain he must pass more often in situations where he has shot the ball in the past, even as those around him say he's become elite in that very part of the game.

"That's something I'm still learning," the 23-year-old said after Friday's game. "My basketball IQ is getting very high.

"I'm learning when to shoot and when not to shoot."