Drink: Sauvignon Blanc
Everyone liked to tip-toe around it, much more willing to defer to Carlos Boozer, but Derrick Rose had not looked the same since rolling his ankle in Game 4 of the last series. While having a solid final game against the Pacers, Rose looked less willing to take it to the hole in the first two games against the Dirty, Dirty. I was not aware that reassuring words could come from an ESPN sideline reporter, but before the game, Lisa Salters talked about Rose wanting to become more aggressive and trust his ankle. And from the results, I would say that Da Rose trusted that ankle like you would trust a sister you just knocked-up.
The Bulls started this game like the dude from Memento. They forgot the way the usually start games and read one of Boozer’s tattoos that told them they start games strong. Da Rose made sure to tramp stamp this game early with his true MVP form. He dropped 17 in the opening period just to let the ATL know he was not going anywhere, while hitting Js and driving hard to the lane. Everyone is blowing Jeff Teague like a Thai hooker blows the USMC, and I will join in. This second-year (I think Hubie Brown was calling him a rookie, but that is hardly surprising given his track record.) player, who averaged 13 minutes a game, has come in and has looked like an All-Star. While some of this credit can be given to the Bulls disinterest in covering the lane, Teague was still earning his praise. And that was the Bulls big problem early on. They concentrated on suffocating the ATL J, and gave up the lane in the process. It was the only reason the ATL kept it close early on.
Unit: DJ TrainWreck came in and laid down the law like a Gary Cooper western with less cheese. UDJTW stretched the lead to as many as 13 points, which led Hubie Brown to quip, “This unit, they can score the basketball.” Odd, I thought that they played great D and often times struggles on the offensive end. But what do I know, I have only watched every Bulls game this season, while Hubie had probably watch about five. The starters filtered back in and were even better, extending the lead to 19 points, before letting a late ATL surge cut it to 13 at the half.
The ATL came out with much more spunk after the half, like a teenager… um, I guess I will stop that one. Particularly, the always underwhelming Josh Smith played like he cared about the outcome of the game (a complete revelation for the very talented ATL foward). There was a Da-Rose-driving-to-da-hoop lull in this quarter. Right when I became concerned about it, Rose winked and took it to the hole like a corpse in a mass grave. An interesting moment came with about two minutes left in the quarter: the ATL pulled out the zone on D. The few times the Bulls have been faced with the zone this season, they have not handled it well (their offense is not well equipped for it). And this time seemed to be no different. Yet, even with the spunk and zone, the Bulls’ lead grew to 17 at the end of three.
With the problems that the zone gave the Bulls, you would think that the ATL would come right back with it. Instead, the ATL ignored the effectiveness of the zone like the US government ignores cutting federal spending. They were still able to go on a mini-run (a jog?) to start the fourth, but it was all for not. With over five minutes left, the ATL faction of the arena was already heading for the exits. I will note here that there were a ton ‘o Bulls fans at this game. There were many M-V-P chants when Rose was on the line or after he put on a Da Rose show. Mike Tirico commented on how the Dirty, Dirty was a “transient town.” By that I think he meant that the ATL fans are like that guy who’s favorite teams are the Yankees, Cowboys, and Lakers. Have a few drinks with Chipper Jones and ask him what he thinks about playing playoff games at home with plenty of good seats still available.
Where was I? Oh yeah, smoke show. Da Rose did his thing and had a career-high 44 points while playing less than 100%. Smoke show. There is nothing else to say about Rose. He is like watching Roy Batty do his thing, description will only lessen the performance. (The closest was Danny O’D posting, “150 years ago we burnt Atlanta to the ground, tonight Derick Rose repeated history.”) I will take a word or two to give mass props to Luol Deng. His defense has been phenomenal this series. He mentioned after Game 2 that he is playing Joe Johnson tight, trusting his team to back him up if Joe gets around him. The result? 26 points for Joe combined for the last two games, after lighting up the Bulls for 34 in Game 1. Deng is like that girlfriend who gets the STD test, so you don’t have to (Of course you are clean!).
Other props have to go to UDJTW and Taj Gibson. Thibs was ever-so hesitant to stick with his second unit in the first series. Since then, UDJTW has put in stronger efforts and have given the banged-up starters a much needed rest to begin the second and fourth. They are like that friend that you do not like to hang out with, but is always there for you, so when you need $656 to cover a dental bill, they got it, and you tell them that you will totally watch the LOTR trilogy with them next week. Gibson was there for the injured Boozer. It looked like Thibs was trying to play Booz as little as possible, seeing as The Beard has turf toe (from a basketball court). Taj did more than an admirable job, 13 points & 11 rebounds in 26 minutes. He was part of the two-headed hustle-machine in the paint along with Noah.
Before ending this post, I must mention that Rasual “Victory Cigar” Butler got playing time, which (given his nickname) is always swell. Its like when you are Jimmy D and you have to sneak a quick hit from a J in the backyard when the Bulls won a title in the 90’s.