Bulls hoping Rose hasn't finally met his match
MIAMI -- Maybe it's too much to ask. Spoiled by an MVP season, perhaps it's time for a reminder that Derrick Rose is still new to all this.
Miami's Power Trio entered the league in the 2003 draft and those players are now in their eighth NBA seasons. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James went to the Finals back when they were each in charge of their own teams.
Now that they've combined forces with the suddenly hot-shooting Chris Bosh, all three are banded together with the mission of stopping Rose, who hadn't even been past the first round of the playoffs until this year.
There's nothing wrong with the way Rose is playing in the Eastern Conference finals, averaging 23 points and 6.3 assists. But this matchup of scrappy team concept vs. superstars looking for a shortcut is starting to turn against the Bulls.
After winning 96-85 on Sunday, Miami has a 2-1 series lead, which makes a Game 4 victory vital for the Bulls. The best remedy would be another of those 44-point performances that Rose delivered in Round 2 against Atlanta.
It's easier said than done. The Heat is not the Hawks. It's possible no team in NBA history has a better collection of athletes. But given a chance to express awe and admiration for Miami's lineup of stars Monday, Rose declined.
"I'm fine. I'm good with the teammates I've got right now," Rose said at the team hotel. "This isn't about that. It's team basketball. I think they're just playing better team basketball right now all around -- defensively, offensively, communicating with one another."
For two straight games, the Bulls have seemed to get flustered against Miami's defensive pressure. They've been close in both contests well into the fourth quarter. But a few poor decisions, careless passes and failed finishes have led to easier scoring chances for the Heat.
Miami is doing the same things on defense Indiana and Atlanta did -- sending double-teams at Rose early and often to get the ball out of his hands.
The Bulls solved those issues, but with Wade and James on the floor -- and Bosh, don't mean to be insensitive -- the decisions have to be quicker and the passes need to be sharper.
In the fourth quarter of Game 2, Rose took 2 shots and scored 2 points. That's not by design.
"It's just double-teaming," Rose said. "Yesterday in the fourth quarter, I was trying to beat it with the pass. I've just got to be more aggressive, try to take the double-team on and play my regular game.
"It hurts a little bit, knowing we're supposed to be this good fourth-quarter team and we haven't shown it yet. We still have a lot more games to play before everything is done."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau decided to skip practice Monday in favor of a film session. The Bulls will get on the court at the Tuesday morning shootaround.
"We're going to learn," Rose said. "I think we learned today the passes and the plays we have to run when they do those type of things.
"I'm definitely confident. The atmosphere today was great. Guys were real positive. All of us know we messed up yesterday."
There are no secret solutions. The Bulls have sets where Rose gives up the ball early, then gets it back on the wing, and they used those at times in Game 3.
Rose came out in favor of isolation plays instead of leading a second defender to him in a pick-and-roll. Of course, no option beats Rose getting out on the break for easy baskets.
"Usually when a guy's double-teamed, it's the second pass that's going to get you a high-percentage shot," Thibodeau said. "We have to make some shots. The better you shoot, the more you can spread a defense.
"We shoot the ball better, I think Derrick will have more opportunities to drive the ball. Derrick, he'll figure it out. He's seen every defense possible."
The Bulls did OK from long range in Game 3, hitting 5 of 12 shots from 3-point range. When they won Game 1, they knocked down 10.
"Listen, he's Derrick Rose. He's the MVP," said Carlos Boozer, who had 26 points and 17 rebounds in Game 3. "He's going to get a lot of attention. We'll see double-teams, triple-teams; we'll see weakside defenders.
"Trust me, he's doing everything he can to make the right plays for us."