After a 25 day hiatus, the San Antonio Spurs returned to the AT&T Center where they are always comfortable. Along with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Spurs 13-1 record was among the best in the entire league.
Maybe Derrick Rose just didn’t get the memo.
Rose — 29 points on 10-23 shooting (.435 FG%), four assists, 8-8 from the line — had his way with the pedestrian Spurs defense as he constantly got to the rim. 11 of Rose’s attempts came from inside nine feet but ill-advised shots hurt Rose’s FG%. His insatiable desire for contact and his exceptional finishing ability subsequently forces the defense to compensate by sending more defenders his way. Suddenly, defenders have more to process and that lends itself to more breakdowns and offensive rebounds than usual.
Getting to the rim is an absolute necessity for a guy like Rose. Unlike prodigious point guard Ricky Rubio, he isn’t blessed with perspicacious passing ability.
Many basketball cognoscenti acknowledge the immense strides in Rose’s mid range game — and that will only further confound opposing defenses as hones that part of his game — but where Rose has made tangible improvement is his efficiency at the basket. In his fourth season, Rose is averaging 5.9 shots at the rim (3rd among PG’s) and his .633 FG% represents a career high.
Timmy’s complete line — 18 points on 8-21 shooting (.381 FG%), 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals — is rather impressive. But, if you caught the game, you got the impression that he should’ve had a better game. Timmy consistently struggled when finishing at the basket. Yet, he was still knocking down tough shots from 15-feet and beyond so, yeah, I was pretty confused. The lowest point of the game came when Timmy missed a layup off the front of the rim. After that shot — he was 0-5 at the time — he finished 8-14 (I’m choosing to ignore the two long desperation three-pointers) which is more of what we are accustomed to.
More oddities. Neal, whose 3P% is .404, struggled to connect from the arc. He was 2-7. Down six with about a minute to go, the ball swung to an open Neal and I was bracing myself for yet another important three ball. Didn’t come. Still, Neal looked really comfortable in pick-and-rolls and, in one of his last opportunities to prove his worth as a capable ball handler, his solid play will allow for a smooth transition for incumbent backup point guard, T.J. Ford.
Something to hang our hats on:
The Chicago Bulls defense is so amazingly tough that no one realizes how effective — and multi faceted — their offense actually is (3rd in offensive efficiency). Allowing only 96 points is something to take pride in and that was without one of our premier defenders, Kawhi Leonard. The Bulls only shot 42% which would make coach Gregg Popovich proud. They had a lot of success crashing the boards and from behind the arc (.467 3P%), though, which puts a damper on an otherwise impressive defensive performance. Of course. I’ll choose to be realistic and not fret over our inability to close out on shooters last night. This team is subject to bouts of inconsistency but defensive purists will still never be completely happy with this team.
Something to consider:
Surprisingly, the Spurs actually took five more shots from inside nine feet. But the game of basketball can be quite simplistic sometimes: the Bulls converted their good looks while the Spurs (most notably DeJuan Blair, Duncan and Tony Parker who accounted for nine misses) did not.
Also, the Bulls won the battle between the No. 1 offensive rebounding team (Chicago) and the No. 2 defensive rebounding team (San Antonio). The Spurs couldn’t keep the Bulls bigs off the offensive boards and that led to 13 offensive rebounds. Giving away extra possessions isn’t something Pop approves of (there is a reason that despite our depleted frontline that the Spurs always rank in the top 10 in defensive rebounding rate) so I look for the Spurs to quickly reverse that trend against the awful Charlotte Bobcats tomorrow.