Charley Rosen's Close Look: Derrick Rose Blooms, Tim Duncan Wilts
Among several other storylines, the San Antonio Spurs' win over the Chicago Bulls featured a rapidly rising young superstar and an opposing superstar on a slow decline.
In only his third season in the NBA, Derrick Rose is proving that he has the stuff to join Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash in the topmost tier of the league's point guards.
Indeed, Rose's improvement from year-to-year-to-year has been dramatic:
His jumpers are now released with a higher arc, an action that makes more of the target available as the ball descends toward the red ring. Rose's shots are also softer, his trigger is a mite quicker, and his range has expanded. Against one of the most well-coordinated defenses extant, Rose knocked down seven of the 11 jumpers he attempted, including two of four from beyond the arc. Five of these hits were pull-ups going right, one going left, and one from a standstill.
The rest of his field goals came on an assortment of flippers and floaters. Overall his numbers included 15-of-27 shooting for 33 points, along with four assists and four turnovers.
Rose has super-quick first and last steps when he can take his right hand to the rim. All he requires is a high brush-screen to turn the corner, even when faced with a helping big man. But he's not quite at an equivalent warp-speed going to his left.
Almost all of his assists came when he made kick-back passes after penetrating into the paint. And it's clear that Rose and Luol Deng are in total sync.
In addition, seven of Rose's passes created wide-open shots that might have been assists had his teammates knocked them down. All of his turnovers resulted from errant passes.
Because of the injury to Carlos Boozer, Rose has to assume more of a point-making responsibility than he will have to do when Chicago's blue-chip free agent returns. It should be noted, though, that with Boozer camped either in the low- or the high-post, the paint will be clogged with defenders who will provide an increased number of obstacles along Rose's paths to glory. Which means that he will be forced to rely more on his jumpers.
This inevitable eventuality will certainly not distress any of the Bulls' future opponents for several reasons:
• Keeping Rose on the perimeter will prevent him from getting his teammates involved in Chicago's offense.
• By limiting his ventures into the middle, Rose's free-throw opportunities will likewise be curtailed.
• Rose still has a habit of over-handling (which he did four times in San Antonio) and forcing shots (four of these, one of which was an air ball).
Unfortunately, Rose's defense has not improved nearly as much as his offense. Both Tony Parker and George Hill easily blew by him on several occasions. Plus, Rose still has tremendous difficulty navigating his way around screens -- he was nailed on five of these. Worse, after getting screened, Rose made no attempt to recover and get back into the play. Instead, he became a spectator, hoping for a missed shot, a friendly rebound, and a lead pass that he could turn into a breakaway dunk.
For now, Rose is a formidable scorer and a haphazard playmaker. Indeed, during the second-half, the Bulls offense functioned best when C.J. Watson played the point and Rose manned the shooting-guard slot.
But wherever he plays -- with or without Boozer -- Rose will only get better as this and subsequent seasons unfold. Mark him down as a perennial All-Star and a potential league-leading scorer.
On the other hand, 34-year-old Tim Duncan is on the downside of his scintillating career. His pertinent stats were certainly impressive -- 8-of-19 from the field, 18 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, only a single turnover and 16 points. In fact, during the Spurs' three previous games T.D. had failed to score in double-digits -- the longest such stretch in his 13-plus seasons as a pro.
For the most part, Duncan played the high-post and was used as a screener and ball-reverser. From the low-post, he shot only 2-of-7, with one of his misses being an airmailed jump hook.
His pivotal moves were slower than in his halcyon years, especially his trademark lunge-shots from the right box. Duncan did find the net on two banked jays, a tip-in, turning a lob pass into an easy layup, a 17-foot springer, plus several gimmes created by his moving without the ball. And, it should be noted, that Duncan was instrumental in San Antonio's third-quarter comeback when they outscored the visitors 37-12 to erase a 10-point halftime deficit and take control of the game.
In other words, even though Manu Ginobili (20 points) and Tony Parker (21) garnered the headlines, Duncan was the catalyst when the tenor of the game changed.
Duncan's slowness off the floorboards was mostly evident on defense. Rose challenged him four times and Duncan was able to move his feet quickly enough to prevent the youngster from scoring only once (when he blocked the ensuing shot). While Duncan has always been an overrated one-on-one defender -- he was seldom challenged in this department by Joakim Noah -- his reduced lateral movement has greatly hindered his ability to continue being a superb help-defender.
Expect Gregg Popovich to limit both Duncan's playing time and offensive responsibilities except in clutch situations. Come the playoffs, Duncan will be ready, willing and able to be the bedrock of the Spurs' chances to advance to the conference finals.
Taking a larger view of the game, Chicago played with great intensity before the intermission. The ball was efficiently snapped from side-to-side and extra passes were the norm. They hustled, ran, rescued loose balls, and made the Spurs look old and in the way.
But, in any game, the initial five minutes of the third-quarter constitute a critical period. That's when the halftime adjustments made by a team's coaching staff are clearly noticeable. And that's when the Spurs ratcheted up their defense by swarming ball-penetration and closing out the Bulls' perimeter shooters with an energy and precision that they had previously lacked.
On offense, the Spurs started Matt Bonner instead of DeJuan Blair, and the former dropped a pair of long-range bombs that spread the defense and gave Duncan more room to operate in the pivot, and opened wider lanes for Ginobili attacks on the hoop.
Suddenly, the Bulls were unable to swing the ball from side-to-side, and the Spurs jumpers began to make the net dance. After trailing by 17 in the second-quarter, San Antonio's final margin represents a 26-point swing.
The Spurs' victory tied them with the Hornets atop the league with 9-1 records. The Spurs also demonstrated that the resilience born of experience was worth more than the burgeoning talents of young hooplings.
At least in the here and now. But who knows what will transpire in the there and then?