Bulls fall to lowly New Jersey; Rose never gets chance at end
This result was a tough one to figure out.
Not so much because the Bulls found a way to lose at home to New Jersey on Tuesday night.
Granted, the Nets arrived in town with a 1-19 record, which equals the worst 20-game start in NBA history. But New Jersey is healthier now than it has been all season and has enough talent to compete with a team like the Bulls.
The strange thing was the Bulls had possession with 14.5 seconds left and trailed by 1 point. Derrick Rose was having one of the best games of his pro career and had scored on an easy runner a few seconds earlier.
Rose never got a chance at the game-winner, though. The Bulls couldn't get him the ball, John Salmons ended up missing a 3-pointer with about seven seconds on the clock, and New Jersey held on for a 103-101 victory at the United Center.
Salmons hadn't taken a shot in about seven minutes of game time, so the obvious question following the loss was why couldn't they find Rose on the final play?
"It was a double pindown for Derrick to come and get the ball," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "I'll have to look at it, but I don't think we set very good screens and then Devin Harris overplayed Derrick and he wasn't able to get open.
"We had to go to John on the high screen-and-roll and needed him to attack off that, but he kind of pulled back for the jumper."
Rose left the locker room quickly but was found in the hallway having a long conversation with former Bulls assistant Del Harris, who is now helping Nets interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe.
"They were denying me pretty good, and John thought he had the shot," Rose said. "We all trust him; he made a big shot before and it just didn't end up right. I was trying (to come back for the ball). I came back up to the top. By that time, he was already shooting, so I was just waiting for my time."
The soft-spoken Salmons was barely audible as he sat at his locker and discussed the play.
"I was trying to get the ball to 'D,' but they overplayed it," he said. "The second option was to make a play. I missed the shot."
One good thing for the Bulls - the snow, opponent and day of the week helped keep the crowd down, so there weren't as many people willing to boo the home team's performance.
The Bulls (7-12) finally came to life when they found themselves trailing 80-70 at the start of the fourth quarter. But they turned a potential 13-0 run into a 9-0 run by missing 4 free throws.
They took a 94-93 lead with 2:55 left on a Rose jumper, but the Nets came right back with a 6-0 run. When Chris Douglas-Roberts stripped the ball from Luol Deng to set up a Courtney Lee fastbreak lay- in, the visitors held a daunting 99-94 edge with 1:52 remaining.
The Bulls missed a shot on their next trip, but they came up with three successive defensive stops and pulled within a point after Taj Gibson (20 points) and Deng (27 points) each knocked down a pair of free throws.
Rose finished a soft runner over veteran big man Tony Battie with 19.5 seconds on the clock to send the Bulls up by 1.
Harris answered by taking Rose off the dribble and tossing in an awkward-looking 8-footer to give New Jersey a 101-100 led with 14.9 seconds left
Del Negro made a change in the starting lineup Tuesday, with veteran center Brad Miller moving in and Gibson stepping out.
The consequences were difficult to define. Gibson actually played very well off the bench, scoring a season-high 20 points while adding 3 blocks. Miller finished with 4 points, 3 rebounds and sat out the final 20 minutes.
Mike McGraw's game tracker
Nets 103, Bulls 101
New low discovered: Yes, the Bulls lost for the eighth time in nine games by falling to New Jersey, which just last week set an NBA record for futility by starting the season 0-18. Now 2-19 doesn't look so bad.
First option bypass: Despite trailing most of the night, the Bulls had a chance to pull this one out when they took possession down by 1 with 14.5 seconds remaining. They couldn't get the ball to Derrick Rose, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, and John Salmons missed a 3-pointer with seven seconds on the clock.
Tiger trails: Rose nearly produced a triple-double, finishing with 27 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds. But his former college teammate at Memphis, Chris Douglas-Roberts, punished the Bulls for 20 points.
Bulls game day
Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena, 6 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet-Plus, ESPN
Radio: WMVP 1000-AM
Update: The Hawks have cooled off a bit recently, going 3-4 in the last seven games after an 11-2 start. But they haven't played since Saturday, so they should be well-rested for the Bulls. Atlanta is that rare young team that continues to get better. SG Joe Johnson is a solid all-star candidate, averaging 21.5 points. SF Josh Smith leads the league in blocked shots, while ex-Bull Jamal Crawford (16.1 ppg) is making a bid for the sixth-man award. The Bulls went 0-3 against the Hawks last season, swept for the first time ever.
Next: Golden State Warriors at the United Center, 7 p.m. Friday