'One of those nights'
Derrick Rose wasn't at his best in Game 2, and that's a luxury the Bulls can't afford
CHICAGO -- He certainly wasn't the only one to miss on drives, to clank on 3-pointers, to get beat defensively and to lose balls. But when Derrick Rose has "one of those nights," as he characterized it, it's rarely a good night for the Chicago Bulls.
“While his 21 points Wednesday night equaled that of three-fifths of the Bulls' starting lineup and surpassed by one point the total offensive output of their bench, Rose had one of those games that a young player hopes to learn from, but the NBA's Most Valuable Player simply can't have.
They closed down the lane, but I missed a lot of lay-ups, shots that I normally hit. They just weren't falling tonight.” -- Derrick Rose
It's the one chink in the Bulls' armor. That is, on top of the fierce defense and the scrappy rebounding and the deep bench, as complete a team as the Bulls have become, they still depend on Rose for their ultimate survival.
"I missed a lot of shots that I normally hit," Rose said after the Bulls' 85-75 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, tying the series.
While he shot a poorer percentage in two games against the Pacers, scored fewer points in the clincher against Atlanta and a Game 4 loss to Indiana, and has been generally poor from 3-point range throughout the playoffs -- 21-of-78 for 27 percent, it was Rose's inability to make the big play or hit the big shot with the game in the balance that brought into focus just how much the Bulls depend on him.
Driving the lane with more frequency than in Game 1, Rose found more resistance from Mike Bibby early, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James late and plenty of help from their Heat teammates throughout. But, by his own admission, Rose simply couldn't close as he usually does.
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"We think we're one of the best pick-and-roll defensive teams in the entire league in terms of keeping the ball out of the paint," Spoelstra said. "He is so explosive. His handle is so good that it's tough. So you have to try to meet him with athleticism, make it tough for him when he gets to the rim."
Rose was hamstrung at the start offensively, picking up his second foul with 3:11 remaining in the first quarter and going 1-of-4 while the Bulls followed suit, connecting on two of their first 16 shots.
The Bulls would hit seven of their last eight shots of the first quarter and led by four when Rose returned at 9:19 of the second. But Wade would score over and around him on three straight possessions on an alley-oop, a drive and a fade-away jumper. "They have great players on their team," Rose said. "But we let them have easy baskets, especially in transition. We can't do that if we're trying to win this series."
But it was failed drive attempts by Rose and missed lay-ups by his teammates that characterized the night.
"Everybody was missing easy bunnies that we normally hit," he said. "[But] this is a series. It's the first to four."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau played Rose the entire second half, and his star -- like his team -- looked fatigued late.
With Wade on Rose at the start of the fourth, Rose was 0-for-4 in the final quarter with three assists, and finished 7-of-23, including 0-for-3 from 3-point range, with eight assists.
Fouled on a drive at 9:09 of the fourth, Rose uncharacteristically missed both free throws. A Taj Gibson slam in heavy traffic after a Rose drive and dish tied the game at 73 with 7:16 remaining as the Bulls and their crowd seemed to regain their energy.
For 10 and a half minutes, Miami's "big three" had failed to score, and though there was an opening as the game literally turned bloody, this was it. But it was James and not Rose who would take the game over on this night, hitting a 3 and a jumper after a pump fake on Rose to give the Heat a five-point cushion that would sustain them with 3:30 remaining.
Rose would fail to score on two drives and a jumper in the final four minutes. But neither the Heat nor Rose is expecting any change in strategy for Game 3 in Miami on Sunday.
"I definitely have to play the same way, driving," he said. "I didn't shoot that many floaters tonight like I usually do, especially against tall defenders. I missed a lot of shots that I normally hit. It was just one of those nights, I guess."
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.