Derrick Rose didn't need to thoroughly dominate Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics in the Chicago Bulls' 97-81 victory on Thursday night to squelch concerns about his team's NBA Playoffs readiness. A win would have been enough. But Rose dominated Rondo and the C's, and in the process might have convinced even the most discerning skeptics that this Bulls team is the presumptive favorite to become champion.
Rose was marvelous, shooting 9-16 from the floor and 10-10 from the line to rack up 30. He added eight assists and just three giveaways, plus five rebounds and two steals. He's now hit the 30-point mark in six of the Bulls' last 11 games, and if you account for the quality of the opponent, this was Rose's best game since he dropped 42 on the Spurs on Feb. 17. Rose's dirty little secret is that he's only shot 42 percent since the All-Star break. But against the best defense other than that of his own team, he was efficient in addition to spectacular. He was the best player on the floor, without question.
That includes Rondo, a rival with a ring but whose offense simply couldn't match that of Rose (3-10 shooting, seven points, six assists, zero turnovers) and whose defense was snuffed out like a spent cigarette. No Celtic could do much against the very defense they themselves employ; on account of having had Tom Thibodeau as a lead assistant for three years, these Celtics know how Chicago is going to handle the standard attacks. And they still couldn't do anything about it.
Luol Deng had another impressive game, scoring 23 points on 9-18 shooting with six rebounds. One of the important assets Deng and Carlos Boozer have is the ability to score without an assist, meaning that if Rose is taken out of the game by a swarming defense, they can create their own shot. Chicago's offense isn't great in total, but that's a facet of the two Pips' skills that will help on a game-to-game basis, especially if a coach like Stan Van Gundy mixes things up in defending Rose.
Meanwhile, Boston's offense looked awful. Don't rule out the strong-defense Philadelphia 76ers putting a spook into the Celtics in the first round.