If Derrick Rose could brighten his aura any further, he found a way on Sunday. In the Chicago Bulls' opener on the road against the L.A. Lakers -- a day in which the Dallas Mavericks raised a championship banner, the Miami Heat blew them out, two of the East's glamour teams played a scorcher and more -- Rose found a way to steal the show as Chicago won 88-87.
With 20 seconds left and the Bulls down one, Rose and Joakim Noah trapped Lakers' superstar Kobe Bryant near midcourt. Kobe fired a pass into Pau Gasol, but Luol Deng had him covered him and knocked it loose. Deng got it to Noah (after what sure looked like a travel), and Noah found Rose, who set up to drive on Derek Fisher from the left elbow. Nothing could save the Lakers then.
The right-handed floater sealed the game, as the Lakers came up empty on the other end as Deng blocked a prayer of a layup by Bryant. And just like that, the Bulls did exactly what they did on the way to the best record in the NBA in 2010-11: brilliant defense and some perfectly timed and hard-earned points by Rose.
Rose led the Bulls with 22 on sizzling 9-13 shooting (4-6 on threes). Deng added 21 on 7-19 shooting. Bryant led the Lakers with 28 on 11-23 shooting with 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 8 turnovers. Andrew Bynum served the first game of his four-game suspension on Sunday; Pau Gasol ended up playing 38 minutes in his stead (14 points, 8 rebounds). Josh McRoberts and Devin Ebanks each got starts for the Lakers.
The basis of Brown's appeal as a coach is his ability to shape a defense. This was very much in evidence today. Andrew Bynum served the first game of his four-game suspension, so the Lakers had to gird themselves against the Derrick Rose Express without their best defensive player. After a slow start Rose was deadly, scoring 22 points (including the game-winner) on 13 shots, but the Bulls as a team barely scratched a point per possession. Aside from a stretch in the second quarter when their shooters caught fire, the Bulls' offense was stifled all day long. The Laker bigs played their asses off. Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts and rebounded with fire and did everything they could to guard the rim. The perimeter rotations, too, were miles better than what we saw last year. Small sample size, warnings about confirmation bias and all that, but this is what Brown was brought in to do.