In his first playoff game in three years, Derrick Rose along with Jimmy Butler led the Chicago Bulls to a 103-91 win over the Milwaukee Bucks to take a 1-0 lead after game 1 in their first round series.
Rose scored 23 points and Butler had 25 as the Bulls took control of the game in the second half, never quite blowing the Bucks away, but never really letting a group of players that seemed to be a bit overwhelmed with the Bulls’ defensive intensity at times and fluidity on offense to really pose a threat. Maybe it’s just jitters they’ll shrug off in the second game, but perhaps there’s that much of a difference between the two teams.
The Bulls pulled away late in the second quarter, mostly through some impressive offense from Rose, who kept attacking the basket with circus-like layups and crowd-pleasing finishes, amping up the ecstatic fans after each made field goal. He told Joakim Noah that tonight was for the love of the game, whatever that means. He played only 27 minutes, understandably, but gave the Bulls everything they needed when he was on the floor.
This wasn’t the most smooth game from the Bulls, turning the ball over 19 times against the long-armed defense of the Bucks. But they got a nice spark off the bench from Aaron Brooks with 13 points, and didn’t need much more from anyone else. Pau Gasol finished with a 10-13 double double to go with 3 blocks, Joakim Noah grabbed 11 rebounds and added 4 assists. The Bulls finished with 30 assists, moving the ball a lot better than anyone expected, especially the Bucks.
So was this simply enthusiasm? Adrenaline? Or a sign of things to come. Rose got through this one without anything in pain, at least not that we heard of. Just as much as the win, that’s the most important thing. Without Rose it’s not just the ability, points and leadership that get taken away. There’s something missing emotionally when Rose isn’t out there on the floor, or not dressed to play.
How do the Bucks recover from this? Play a bit more patiently. Both Khris Middleton (leading them with 18 points) and especially Giannis Antetokounmpo and Michael Carter-Williams need to think a little bit before they make a move or shoot the ball, going into a crowded defense, etc. Jason Kidd will probably tell them. The Bulls aren’t perfect, but they’re battle tested and been through this before. It takes more than youth, length and enthusiasm to get through them this time of year.