Derrick Rose scored 28 of his game-high 31 points in the first and fourth quarters as the Chicago Bulls fought off Ricky Rubio's 13 point, 12 assist night and a determined Minnesota comeback to beat the Timberwolves 111-100 on the road Tuesday night.
The Bulls got off to a great start due to a permissive Timberwolves defense and a player in Rose who knows how to take advantage of such lax play. Getting any shot he and his teammates wanted in the opening quarter, Rose hit his first six shots and scored 14 of the Bulls first 29 points in leading the team to a 33-17 advantage.
Minnesota's defense could be boiled down to a standing back and letting the Bulls get the ball anywhere they wanted to on the court while attempting only feeble hand wave closeouts on jump shots by Rose and Luol Deng (21 points, 8 in first quarter). Offensively, they were little better, settling for jump shots as a team and two poorly attempted hooks from Darko Milicic, the last of which missed the basket completely to the right.
That stretch of basketball would be the only shift for starters Milicic, Wayne Ellington, and Wesley Johnson as Rick Adelman, desperate for defense and attacking the basket offensively, would begin to substitute and fish for a combination to get his team back in the game.
With Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour (22 points, a team high), Kevin Love, Anthony Tolliver and Anthony Randolph closing the second quarter, Minnesota scored 16 points in the final 4:50 of the half to cut a once 24-point first half Bulls lead down to six when the horn sounded. The Timberwolves had only scored 27 points in the 19 previous minutes before that barrage to end the half. Kevin Love hit three three-pointers during that run, scoring 11 of the 16 points himself, on his way to a 20-point night.
Adelman went against the book to start the second half as he sat those three starters and started Rubio, Tolliver, and Randolph with Love and Ridnour to start the third quarter. And (gasp!) it worked as that lineup moved the ball well and eventually tied the game at 70 late in the third quarter, meaning the Timberwolves had rattled off a 46-22 run of their own to finally overcome the early hole dug by the slack first quarter effort.
Says Stop-n-Pop at Canis Hoopus regarding Rubio's impact on the game:
Rubio had 12 assists and 13 points. We're looking at at least 37 of the team's 100 points. Adding in the 3s, he accounted for 42% of the Wolves' scoring. Derrick Rose assisted for 25 points with his 31 points. His 56 points accounted for just over half of the Bulls' scoring. He played 6 more minutes than Ricky. As dagger as Rose was, Ricky was pretty damn close in terms of overall production. He even added rebounds and steals.
One more thing regarding Rubio -- this may be an attribution of projection rather than reality -- but witnessed in the second quarter was an errant Carlos Boozer shot on the Bulls offensive end. Rubio reached for the rebound as Joakim Noah tried to secure it as well. Rubio and Noah were briefly tied up with the ball before it seemed Rubio simply took his hands off the ball to avoid a sure-loss jump ball with Noah. As soon as his hands were free and Noah began to situate himself, Rubio slapped at the ball again as Noah lost his balance and the ball out of bounds. Savvy.
In the fourth quarter, Derrick Rose showed why he is the reigning MVP as well as the minutes workhorse of the Bulls team. Rose played every minute of the second half, and exploded in the fourth as in the first, scoring 14 points on 5-8 shooting, including 2-2 from three point territory. Rose tossed in four assists in winning time as well to get to 11 assists for the game and put the Timberwolves away for good.
Over at Blog-a-Bull, your friendly BullsBlogger notes the back and forth, momentum wise, between Rose and Rubio and thinks what you saw is who the Bulls are ... for now:
Often times, it's enough. The Bulls did ultimately win by 11, and Derrick Rose yet again made fantastic late plays to seal the victory, sore ankle be damned (and sure to never be admitted). The Timberwolves look like a team that will have a lot of close losses, and the Bulls as we know are a team that simply wins with that defense+Rose formula. This one may have been tougher than expected, but they get an extremely soft landing with a home date against the Wizards. So yet again, they stay great without looking particularly great, and we're left wondering just how real it is. I suppose it's real until it isn't.