Game Notes: Lakers at Bulls
Derrick Rose continues to blossom.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
“When you beat the champions, there’s nothing you can say about that.” — Derrick Rose
Last night’s Chicago Bulls victory over the defending world champion Los Angeles Lakers provided a real confidence boost to a young team still trying to jell and build chemistry. Los Angeles came in on a three game winning streak after losing their previous four games while Chicago was on a three game winning streak of their own and were looking to exact revenge on the Lakers who had narrowly defeated them at Staples Center in late November.
The Lakers looked as if they were going to put the Bulls away early in Phil Jackson’s last ever coaching appearance at the United Center. “It’s definitely the last time I’ll coach in this building,” said Jackson before the game. “I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, but yes, I anticipate this will be the last time I coach in this building.”
Los Angeles jumped all over Chicago in the first quarter holding them to just 12 points on 5-20 shooting from the field and forcing 6 turnovers. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom combined for 18 of the Lakers 22 points in the quarter as the pair shot 8-12 from the field and grabbed 7 rebounds.
But Chicago quickly righted the ship in the second quarter and showed once again, as they have many times this season, that even when they’re down, there is plenty of fight in this team and no lead is safe as they’re never out of a contest.
Led by Derrick Rose who scored 9 points in the quarter, and Kyle Korver who provided a spark off the bench with 8 points — including two 3-pointers – the Bulls outscored the Lakers 24-10 in the quarter and went into intermission with a four point lead, 36-32.
In the third quarter Kobe Bryant — who moved into 11th all-time on the NBA scoring list, passing John Havlicek — began to assert himself more (he only scored 6 points in the first 24 minutes of play) as he contributed 9 points in the quarter despite shooting a less than efficient 3-8 from the field. But by continually attacking and forcing the Bulls to account for him, his play would lead to easy opportunities for his teammates as Los Angeles went on to score 26 points in the quarter.
But Chicago would once again outscore the Lakers as they poured in a combined 30 points as they were led by Rose who scored 6 points on two big 3-pointers including one from in front of the Lakers bench with time running out on the shot clock.
Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer combined to grab 10 rebounds in the first half but collectively only scored 2 points on 1-6 shooting. The pair would find their offensive groove in the third stanza as Boozer scored 6 points and Noah added 9 as they shot a combined 6-9 from the field and the duo grabbed another 7 rebounds for good measure as Chicago led Los Angeles 66-58 going into the 4th quarter.
The final period was the most exciting as the Lakers mounted an aggressive charge to get back into the game and outscored the Bulls 26-22 while playing stifling defense and forcing the Bulls to shoot 7-18 from the field. But the game came down to the final two minutes as the two best players on the floor, Rose and Bryant, put on a show and showed why they are the best in the NBA at their respective positions.
Each superstar had the ball in their hands on every single one of their teams possessions in the last two minutes and it was Rose who would come away with the advantage in the head-to-head macthup with Kobe. He all but sealed the game for Chicago as he beat two Los Angeles defenders and nailed a fadeaway free-throw line jumper with time running down on the shot-clock that would put the Bulls up 5 points with 25 seconds left in regulation as the Bulls would walk away with the 88-84 victory.
“We can beat anybody in the league,” said Rose after the game. “We’ve just got to come out, play hard, play the way we know how to play, put our defense first and we’ll be fine.”
Rose once again led the Bulls in scoring as he tallyed 29 points and dished out 9 assits and seemed to draw inspiration from playing against Kobe Bryant as he did whatever it took to put the Lakers away and close the game out.
“I look up to [Kobe]. If anything, that’s what I take from his game. He knows how to put people away… He’s the best player in the game right now.”
Said Tom Thibodeau of his All-Star point guard, “His will is special. He made a lot of big plays throughout the game and I thought he really worked at playing defense. His all-around game was terrific.”