For two consecutive games, Derrick Rose leads the Chicago Bulls and doesn’t gut pulled forward by someone else. Despite a huge game for both Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Portland Trail Blazers lost 115-106 as Rose got plenty of help off the bench, mostly from Aaron Brooks and Nikola Mirotic.
It’s been almost three years since Rose last had a 30 points game. He finished with 31 on 14-of-24 from the field, as if to show he doesn’t need free throw shots or 3-pointers to get to this total. It was all off-the-dribble shots from close to the rim, showing his penetration ability, hang time and upper body strength. The same thing that made him so special before the injuries. Consistency, efficiency. Those things have been missing, but maybe no longer.
While Rose was having a career rejuvenating day, the Blazers were playing like they always are: Two players doing everything while nothing comes from the bench. Both LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard scored 35 points but Wesley Matthews struggled against the defense of Jimmy Butler, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez were nowhere to be found (5-of-20 combined from the field) and the bench produced just 15 points compared to 40 by the Bulls.
Nikola Mirotic might be playing better basketball than any other rookie in the league right now. He finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds while Aaron Brooks, a real bingo for the Bulls as a backup point guard, added 17 points in 17 minutes. The Bulls had a +20 or better when both of them were on the floor, while Kirk Hinrich didn’t do too badly, scoring 8 points. The Bulls went with an only eight-player rotation, as Joakim Noah continues to be absent, and Taj Gibson filled in for him.
In the starting lineup Rose made it seem like old times. Pau Gasol, Gibson and Jimmy Butler all finished in double figures, but it was mostly Rose doing the finishing and the starting. He didn’t do too well individually (and the Bulls as a team) in stopping Lillard, who hit seven shots from beyond the arc. But as it often goes with the Blazers, it was less about getting easy shots and more about a streaky night for Lillard and Aldridge.
The Blazers crumbled in the minutes Aldridge was off the floor, suddenly getting stuck offensively. Until they sort out their defensive consistency and their ability to get something from their bench, again, on a consistent level, their candidacy when it comes to winning the West or at least putting up a serious contention for that spot isn’t going to be taken too seriously. They just have too few players stepping up when it matters.
The biggest change for Rose compared to previous games was his 13 points on drives, averaging 4.8 on 5.5 drives through his first 13 games, making them on a 58.8% success rate. Against the Blazers he made those shots on 75%, giving that MVP vibe through the building. Rose is averaging 17.2 points per game on his comeback attempt but has the ability to do more. If this can be more than a one time thing, the Bulls have a shot of doing something really special this season.