"That’s my game (being aggressive)," Rose said Wednesday after he led the Bulls with 23 points in a second half domination win over the Brooklyn Nets 105-80. "They gave me a lot of open shots tonight, but (I was also) driving and getting guys (shots); being in condition to take those shots is a huge key to the way I’m playing."
Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

Bulls net big win over Brooklyn

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By Sam Smith | 12.11.2014 | 2:39 a.m. CT

Get Derrick Rose going more aggressively. Check.

“That’s my game (being aggressive),” Rose said Wednesday after he led the Bulls with 23 points in a second half domination win over the Brooklyn Nets 105-80. “They gave me a lot of open shots tonight, but (I was also) driving and getting guys (shots); being in condition to take those shots is a huge key to the way I’m playing. I think I’m finally getting in great condition. And teammates are knocking down shots so the court is a little bit open. Just trying to get a feel for the game and seeing whenever I can attack. I think I'm fighting my way through it. I'm not all the way there yet, but it's a process."

Find the defense that has ranked among the league’s best the last four years. Check.

“They came out, punched us in the mouth right away, rebounding strong, real physical,” said Taj Gibson of the Nets’ 10-1 and 20-8 start. “Third quarter we got into it (26-17 Bulls with three Gibson blocks in five possessions). We tried to be the dominant team, rebounding and finishing strong. Talking better on defense, good communications with the bigs. The trust was there tonight. It takes everyone responding; guys were there for everyone. It was the old Chicago Bulls defense.”

Get back on the winning track back in the United Center. Check.

“It was a statement game,” emphasized Rose of the Bulls improving to 3-5 at home and 13-8 overall. “Teams are going to come in here (and) we don’t want them having confidence or thinking it will be a soft game or easy game for them. We know we have to keep our house in order and come out and play the way we know we have to play.”

It wasn’t the most difficult opponent with the Nets now 8-12 and missing starters Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. The Bulls were without Joakim Noah, resting his sprained ankle, and Doug McDermott. But for the Bulls after losing both games at home since the close of the long road trip and not having won in the United Center since Nov 10—a full month—it was time to get serious once again.

Not that the Bulls haven’t been as they lost in overtime to the Dallas Mavericks when Kirk Hinrich fouled on a three late and were with the first place Warriors midway through the fourth quarter and were beaten by Draymond Green’s career game. No time to panic. But Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t one to ignore a loose thread on slacks. Because you ignore that thread and your finely crafted garment can begin to unravel little by little.

There’s none of that with Thibodeau, which explains his excellence as a coach. So the Bulls went hard in practice the last few days, concentrating on defense and doing their best to ignore Thibodeau’s colorful descriptions of their play.

“We play with a lot of urgency on the road; we play with that dog mentality, that swag on the road,” noted Gibson, who had 11 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks starting for Noah. “At home, we expect to get wins. It is hard to get wins. It’s up to us to push through. Like Thibs said, ‘It’s in your hands what kind of season you want to have. You’ve got to put the work in.’ We went hard these last two days of practice, (Thibodeau) calling guys names, but really digging, Thibs being that drill sergeant. Digging into us at practice. It’s frustrating, but we need things like that.

“He’s Thibs, 100 percent every day of the week,” said Gibson with a laugh. “He’s not going to change. Eventually guys are going to have to take it in and listen to what he says. He may yell at you 100 times, but you have to do what he says. We have a lot of new guys trying to figure it out. The rookies (are) adjusting, a little scared at times. (But) if you can handle this you can handle anywhere. He yells at everybody, top to bottom; he doesn’t sugar coat anything. He wants you to get better. Guys have to follow suit. Nothing is going to change.”

We live these days more than ever in an automatic, instant society with seemingly little patience for deliberation, tolerance and composure. Derrick! Jump over someone and dunk! Now!!! The defense! Where is it!!!

Forget that Rose is back barely more than 10 games after missing two years with major knee surgeries; forget that there are a half dozen new players with every starter but Mike Dunleavy missing multiple games with injuries. So what that the team leads the Eastern Conference in road wins. We want results and we want them now!

Gibson had to laugh when reporters were following up the theme of the week that Rose doesn’t drive to the basket enough anymore playing a 13th game after two years out and thus is a shell of what he once was.

"Derrick, he is the same person, he's the same player, I think," said Gibson. "You guys (media) are so critical of what he does. He's playing with hamstring injuries; that stuff is tough. Track runners sit out after getting their hamstrings hurt. They sit down. He's still out there playing through all that stuff. He's just grinding as a player, getting better. And he's only going to get better."

It was a good game for Rose with a team high 23 points, leading six players in double figures. Rose’s turnovers were high with five, but he also made three of seven threes in the other narrative that he shoots too many three pointers and should be attacking and driving to the basket.

Of course, Rose’s forays to the basket remain the stuff of greatness, and they bailed out the Bulls in the first quarter in that early Nets run, and then especially in the second quarter with the Bulls still is lackluster mode. Rose had a drive for a three point play in practically knocking Deron Williams into the fifth row, another explosive drive on the next Bulls possession and then a floater on a handoff from Pau Gasol. Rose’s seven consecutive points gave the Bulls their first lead of the game at 43-39. They’d remain tied at 51 at halftime. And then after briefly losing the lead for the last time in the game at 55-53, they’d hit the undermanned and overmatched Nets with a 13-0 run that included a Rose three and a power inside smash and dunk over Mason Plumlee by Gibson.

From there, the Bulls defense was as good as its been all season, holding the Nets to 29 points in the second half on 26.2 percent shooting and exploding out to a 28-point lead as Thibodeau emptied the bench with about three minutes remaining.

“I did not like (the defense) at the start,” complained Thibodeau to open his post game remarks to media.

He also thinks the frame for the Mona Lisa is too squared.

And don’t get him started on the way the Victoria Secret models brush their teeth by not going up and down with the toothbrush.

“I did like it in the second half,” Thibodeau loosened up about the defense. “We were more tied together. The initial part was good at the start, but our rebounding wasn’t. They came out with energy and got us back on our heels. I liked the way we responded in the second half. I thought Derrick was more aggressive in general the whole night. That’s what we need from him. He has to continue to be that. The more aggressive he is, the better it is for our team.”

Certainly Rose driving to the basket and exploding past defenders in video game form is a pleasing sight for Bulls fans and coaches. But it’s not absolutely necessary at that level at this point. Relax.

The irony here is so many have called for the Bulls to build toward a season climax. And yet when Rose shows signs of not playing with a manic aggressiveness even in early games between ankle and hamstring injuries, there’s not only a concern but a condemnation.

Which was also Gibson’s point: The players watch this guy all the time; they know what he can do. But they also know it a long season in which he has to build after not only missing so much, but how important he is to the team. So let him shoot threes to help open up the floor and get his playing rhythm; let him concentrate on defense against a great offensive team instead of trying to match them drive for drive. The Bulls know they can win 60 games, lead the league in wins. They do not know yet how to get all the pieces there at the right time in the right condition. That’s part of what this is all about. And Rose seems to understand best what it takes to get there.

"Just trying to let this process work itself out,” said Rose. “All this is just a learning experience with the team, especially with myself; haven’t played in two years. Just picking and choosing what I’m going to go out there and do. So really have to pay attention to detail, how the game is going and not let it slip too far down.

“Just feel great,” said a reflective Rose. “My body is healthy, mind is good, spirit is good; just trying to keep it going and know when I do have bad games like I did last game (Golden State) that they’re going to happen. Just try to get it out of my mind and keep it positive. Just give me a little minute. I know where I am going to be. I’m very confident in my craft. So you all are going to be surprised the way I am playing in a little while.

“We have so many offensive threats on this team you tend as a point guard to try get them going and that kind of takes away from what I am doing as far as being a scoring point guard,” said Rose. “Just trying to mix and mingle everything together and see what works. I think the first time I came back I wanted it too bad. Every night is not going to be my night. I just have to live with that. I’m human. So the one thing I can’t do is lose confidence because I worked too hard.”

It seems Rose has an excellent understanding of his body and what it will take to be the kind of player he needs to be for the Bulls. Everyone else has an opinion, which is reasonable. But Rose knows best and as he leads the Bulls figure to follow.

It was again after that rough start that resulted, in part, from the Bulls insisting on their strategy, which the Nets countered well.

Thibodeau emphasizes playing inside, outside: Going through Pau Gasol to start the game, which makes sense given the possibilities not only for scoring but opening the shooting. However, the Nets were ready and closed down the lane, swarming Gasol and denying the drive. It’s why Mike Dunleavy had a good game with 14 points and four threes as the Nets were giving the outside shot. It’s a strategy the Bulls will see since Jimmy Butler isn’t feared for his shooting. It’s also why Rose continues to work more on his three. The Bulls are going to get that shot more.

So the Nets dominated the game early, though Butler got going at the basket late in the quarter to bring the Bulls within 25-20 after one quarter.

When the Bulls start like that they’ll also tend to play slower looking for the post entry pass first. And if not finding it, they end up with a lot of shots late in the clock, which happened in the first half as the Bulls offense was more offensive. Dunleavy was making those threes to keep them close, but the Nets were satisfied to give those.

Then Rose had his burst of seven straight points with those bursts to the basket and a terrific pass ahead for a Butler layup and basket as the shot clock expired for that 51-51 halftime. Rose also even had a last word as it seemed clear the Nets bench was yelling for Rose to shoot the three right in front of them midway through the third when Rose’s three pointer gave the Bulls a 64-55 lead. The Nets never got closer than seven the rest of the game. Rose stopped to turn at the beaten Nets and have his say. The Nets would score one field goal in the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter.

“Much better second half,” noted Gasol, who finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds for his seventh consecutive double/double. “Got into them a little more, forced them into tougher shots. Matched the physicality they came with. Positive game for (Rose).” Check and double check.

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