Derrick Rose was spectacular throughout the regular season this year as he just kept willing his Bulls to victories thanks in large part to his ability to deliver late in games. The Bulls stingy defense might have kept games close, but more often than not Rose proved to be the difference maker with his spectacular forays to the hoop as well as his demoralizing dunks.
Because many felt as though the Chicago Bulls overachieved during the regular season, Rose’s field goal percentage as well as his ability to run a team were never brought into question. As long as the team won, his warts were ignored. That’s just the nature of sports. Michael Jordan was notoriously hard on teammates while Kobe Bryant was often characterized as a selfish gunner who craved the attention that came with being The Man. But these players won titles and thus their stories were rewritten.
But with the Bulls now eliminated, it would be foolish not to look at the league MVP’s play and how it’s translated to the Bulls success in the postseason.
In the first round, the Bulls dispatched a gritty Indiana Pacers team in five games as Derrick Rose just routinely blew by defenders and got himself to the free throw line (12 free throw attempts per game in the series). Have a look at Derrick Rose’s production against Indiana in the first round of the playoffs:
Despite his terrible field goal shooting and high turnover numbers, Chicago’s regular season formula for success was on full display in this series, as the Bulls essentially outlasted Indiana in four out of the five games on the strength of their vaunted defense as well as Rose’s ability to provide some playmaking late in games and get himself to the line.
In the Conference Semifinals, the league’s MVP played very much like it. For all the talk about how the Hawks’ athletes would force Rose into taking tough contested shots, he actually looked better against Atlanta than he did against Indiana as evidenced by the numbers:
The Bulls starting point guard proved to be just too much for a Hawks defense who never really figured out how to truly slow down the superstar. Rose got into the open court and converted a multitude of baskets that led fans to hit up Youtube with the hope of finding the highlights of the game they had just witnessed.
By Game 3, Rose’s legend grew wilder as he taught Hawks defenders the Dougie, the Matrix (you know, when Neo bends backwards) and the Harlem Shake on his way to 44 points and seven assists.
His timely scoring as well as his playmaking made him look like the best point guard in the NBA. For every wrinkle that Atlanta threw at him, the former Memphis Tiger came right back and countered the strategy with his amazing play as he led his Bulls squad to some tough wins. It was almost as if he could no wrong.
Indeed, by the time the Conference Finals against Miami started, Rose was the same breathtaking player as he went for 28 points, six assists and four turnovers on 10-for-22 field goal shooting in a Chicago blowout victory in Game 1.
And then, it’s as if Miami deployed what an NBA fan characterized to me (sorry, I can’t recall who) as “The Rose Rules”.
Joe Dumars once said that the Pistons defense just essentially sent all of their help towards Michael Jordan to discourage him from driving to the basket as they formed a wall. Erik Spolestra and his Heat team used the same blueprint against Rose as they consistently sent extra players at him in their pick and roll defense to force him to pass off to teammates.
At times, instead of getting rid of the ball, Rose would wait for the second defender to stop double-teaming and rotate back to his original assignment. That’s when Rose would break down his man and attack the basket; mind you the Heat defense patiently waited to greet him in the lane with two or three players at times and forced tough shots. Have a look at Rose’s numbers in the last four games of the series:
As good as Miami’s team defense was, the brilliant individual defense that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James played on the league MVP also contributed to his struggles. Their length and athleticism allowed them to stay with Rose stride for stride and contest his shots.
In the case of LeBron though, it just seemed as if the Bulls superstar was never able to shake loose from him as he routinely struggled to get any form of daylight against him.
By the time the series was over, Derrick Rose’s MVP campaign ended much like the ones of former Maurice Podoloff trophy winners: LeBron James (2009-10) and Kobe Bryant (2007-08).
Chicago fans will be encouraged to hear that both players made it to the Finals the seasons following those eliminations. Mind you, Kobe Bryant’s Lakers were better the following season due to the health of Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum while LeBron James made it to a new team with stars such as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. In both their cases, their rosters got better and the Bulls will probably have to follow that route in order to make the Finals next season.
With that said though, as great as Rose has been this season, he is not exempt from criticism. His shot selection in the Conference Finals could have been much better (averaged 6.0 3-point field goals and 6.4 free throw attempts per game in ECF) and as the point guard, he should have done a better job of protecting the ball and avoiding miscues.
Furthermore, Rose was 16-for-32 on shots at the rim during the series but was also 7-for-30 on 3-point field goal attempts (23.3 percent). In addition, Rose was only able to convert 26.3 percent of his shots from three to nine feet in the five playoff games against the Heat after shooting 39.7 percent from the same range during the regular season.
Miami’s defense might have done a good job in the series of trying to take away Rose’s best scoring opportunities by limiting the fast breaks and open looks, but at some point the Bulls star should have figured out a way to put more pressure on the Heat defense. Indeed, he attempted 34 field goals from 16-23 feet (long two point shots) to go along with his numerous 3-point field goal attempts.
The league’s MVP will probably beat himself up over this series, and rightfully so. For all of his gifts and talents, he was unable to replicate what he had done all season against a tough stingy defense that made him earn every basket and free throw, especially in the fourth quarter.
As a result, much like Kevin Garnett, Derrick Rose is now Gone Blatching (ESPN Daily Dime’s equivalent of Gone Fishin’).