The Chicago Bulls got Derrick Rose up and healthy once again, and the combination of him and Jimmy Butler was enough to overcome a resilient Boston Celtics team 109-102, with Rajon Rondo once again struggling to show why he should be considered one of the best point guards in the NBA in a direct showdown with one that has proven he belongs in that group.
Derrick Rose scored 21 points in only 28 minutes a few days after limping with a hurting hamstring in a loss to the Denver Nuggets, not making it past the first quarter in that game. Unlike Rose’s “comeback” of 2013, he’s playing well and beyond this time around. It’s not just the speed and aggressiveness that were always there. He’s shooting very well off the dribble and from the outside, hitting two 3-pointers against the Celtics, and doesn’t show a shred of rust or insecurity on him.
Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 22 points coming with a 10-of-12 afternoon from the line. Butler has already made it past 20 points ten time this season. Through the first three seasons of his career, he made it to 20 points only nine times. This season he’s the team’s main executor on offense shown by his tendency to attack the rim almost twice as much as he did during his earlier seasons. This results in a lot more trips to the line, taking 8.5 free throws per game.
The Bulls, despite the ability of their guards, needed some late-game magic to walk away with another road win, looking a lot more comfortable when they’re playing away from Chicago. They held the Celtics, one of the more inconsistent offensive teams in the league, to just 11 points in the fourth quarter, while erasing a six-point deficit. Chicago had no problem reaching the rim with 50 points in the paint, and had Joakim Noah clamp down on defense late in the game, finishing with six blocks to go with 6 assists, 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Pau Gasol had a frustrating game with the hands of Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass in his face most of the night. He did score 15 points, but was only 6-of-19 from the field to go along with his 15 rebounds. The Bulls grabbed 18 off the offensive glass, as the Celtics continue to struggle with boxing out big guys from various teams. They keep needing help from the guards, Rajon Rondo in particular, with 7 rebounds, to come up with some boards.
And as for Rondo? He puts up a nice stat line of 8 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists. But how much does it help his team win? Not that much, according to the Celtics’ 4-9 record, including 2-6 at home. He’s a liability offensively when he shoots the ball, and his ability to make some wonderful assists doesn’t make up for the shots he misses or doesn’t take. On a superstar team? Sure, he can make himself useful. But on this team? The Celtics might have been better off with a scoring point guard.
The Bulls need Rose and badly. Everything changes when he’s healthy and there’s no worry of him hitting the locker room for treatment at any minute. Defenses have to adjust and although the shooting of the big men doesn’t always suggest it, it makes things a lot more easier for them. The Bulls should be the best team in the East, with the best record as well. However, injuries (Taj Gibson is still out) are denying them that “right”. Getting Rose on consecutive nights might be a way to get back to that place.