Friday, April 8, 2011

Click-a-Bull (Bulls/Celtics with Rose VIDEO; and Rose/MVP)

Celtics Vs. Bulls: Derrick Rose Stamps Out Rajon Rondo, Boston In 97-81 Chicago Win

Derrick Rose didn't need to thoroughly dominate Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics in the Chicago Bulls' 97-81 victory on Thursday night to squelch concerns about his team's NBA Playoffs readiness. A win would have been enough. But Rose dominated Rondo and the C's, and in the process might have convinced even the most discerning skeptics that this Bulls team is the presumptive favorite to become champion.

Rose was marvelous, shooting 9-16 from the floor and 10-10 from the line to rack up 30. He added eight assists and just three giveaways, plus five rebounds and two steals. He's now hit the 30-point mark in six of the Bulls' last 11 games, and if you account for the quality of the opponent, this was Rose's best game since he dropped 42 on the Spurs on Feb. 17. Rose's dirty little secret is that he's only shot 42 percent since the All-Star break. But against the best defense other than that of his own team, he was efficient in addition to spectacular. He was the best player on the floor, without question.

Rose’s MVP Case Closed

What else do you need to see from Derrick Rose to believe that if nothing else, his name should be the first one out of your mouth when we start the MVP conversation?

We understand that the analytical crowd has presented a very impressive case as to why Rose should not take home that trophy. But we watched him shred the Celtics last night on TNT, doing the same thing to one of the best defensive teams on the planet that he has done to basically everyone in the league all season.

And we just can’t escape the fact that our eyes keep seeing something that the stat crowd apparently is missing. If you’re the best player on the floor every night out and your team, also a strong candidate for the best in the league right now, continues to beat back the competition (the Bulls are 58-20 and barring a catastrophe will finish atop the Eastern Conference standings) on a nightly basis, shouldn’t Rose’s MVP case be closed by now?

Road to the Finals: Chicago Bulls

No one likes to admit they were wrong. In the long list of people who are willing to admit they're wrong, sports writers are just above politicians and below artists. It's a product of the kind of currency that operates among sports editors and a result of the kind of comments you'll see litter most posts about sports across the internet. So this isn't exactly easy.

I was wrong.

Way wrong.

Monumentally stupid would be another way to put it, but we're going to roll with just wrong. Back in July, before we'd seen a lick of basketball, we ran our offseason grades. In appraising the Bulls, I looked at Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans and didn't see it. I initially gave them a C+, then considering their total positioning of their current roster, upgraded them to a B-. Sure, they'd be better than the 8th seed they were in 2010. But were they really going to be that much better? Were they really going to compete for a title? Were they really going to be great?

Yes. Yes they were.

The Bulls are a great team. And they enter the playoffs at their absolute zenith. They are led by the all-but-elected MVP Derrick Rose, who we'll get to. Their coach is the near-lock Coach of the Year. We'll get to him, too. They defend, can run, can play in the half-court, they rebound, and they have that rare ability to find the way to win. Their being at the top of the Eastern Conference should not be a surprise if you've been watching this season. They've been great. The playoffs will give them the chance to prove it.

Bulls’ message to Celtics: We can beat you

Turn the corner into the Chicago Bulls’ coach’s office, and there was something seldom seen: Three kids climbing onto Tom Thibodeau, twisting back his arms, mussing his hair and threatening to topple him backward in his desk chair. These were his nephews from Berlin, Conn., wearing UConn Huskies jackets and sharing with the reclusive, relentless coach the closest you’ll ever see to a rollicking postgame party.

Here was Thibodeau flanked with Diet Coke cans and two bottles of honey for a voice struggling to make it to the playoffs. Ask Thibodeau about that Chicago Sun-Times back page that dropped on his office desk sometime after 6 a.m. on Thursday, and his eyes dart wide, his mouth curls into a smile and he says: “How great was that?”

There was a photo of a glum Derrick Rose(notes), with his words splattered across the page in big, bold, alarming letters: “We’re not moving in the right direction.”

Here’s the genius of these Bulls: Somehow, the leadership can sell everyone – the papers, the locker room – on the idea that the most dominant, most locked-in regular-season team is somehow vulnerable, somehow on the cusp of catastrophe. The Chicago Bulls had won 16 of 18 games, and yet here was Rose delivering a foreboding message with the Boston Celtics looming. Thibodeau could warn his team over and over on slippage, but nothing resonates like a star sounding the alarm.

“And then, he comes out and backs it up,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said later with a sigh. “That kid is something else.”

Rose etched his name on the MVP against Celtics

If there was really any doubt, I'm pretty sure it was eliminated Thursday. And no, I'm not talking about the Celtics chance at the No. 1 seed.

Derrick Rose is your MVP. It's happening. If you love advanced stats, if you love Dwight Howard, I'm just warning you now -- deal with it.

After his electric performance Thursday destroying the Celtics (30 points on 9-16 shooting, seven assists) in front of a national TNT audience while announcers, fans and media fawning over him for 48 minutes, there's just no doubt about it.

Whether Rose should win it, that's for another column. In fact, read Ken Berger's stellar piece on exactly that. But it was clear Thursday against Boston that Rose is very, very deserving.

This was a big game. You could feel it. The Bulls not only had a chance to essentially wrap up the top seed, but send a substantial message to the Celtics, and the rest of the Eastern Conference. If there are "Heisman Moments" in college football, you could lock down this game as Rose's. He showcased every ability he has, led his team masterfully and basically destroyed the defending East champs.

It was a complete takedown.

I'm not necessarily someone on the Rose for MVP wagon, but I can tell you that nights like this make it hard not to give it to him. Reality is, not everyone has embraced advanced plus/minus or win shares. Most still watch games for what they are and Rose gives those the thrill of a lifetime. He looks like an MVP. It's hard to deny that feeling you get while watching him orchestrate the Bulls.

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