The Chicago Bulls' formula is simple: defend like crazy and ride Derrick Rose to a win. They did just that against the Washington Wizards in a 98-88 victory at the Verizon Center on Monday night. Credit the Wizards for never giving up, but the Bulls pretty much took control in the third quarter in the win.
In so many ways, the Bulls hit right at the Wizards' weaknesses. Their defense closed down the paint, contesting every layup and forcing the Wizards into so many misses around the rim. With nowhere else to turn, the Wizards had to rely on tough jumpers, some of which went in, but most of which were launched in cringe-worthy fashion. On the other end, the Wizards fought, but committed several errors in allowing Kyle Korver to get open and letting Rose get to his comfort spots. It's hard to say the Wizards played poorly defensively, because Rose did hit some absurd shots, but whenever they did make a mistake, the Bulls made them pay.
You do have to give the Wizards credit for the fourth quarter, where they fought back and cut the lead to single digits. That's something they can build on. Alas, though, it was too little too late.
More notes (in chronological order) below the jump.
- Really nice cross-screen to free JaVale McGee up for an easy layup on Joakim Noah. I didn't see who set the screen, but that's something that's been missing from the Wizards' offense. The off-ball screens from everyone have been very weak.
- But in typical bad McGee fashion, he gave that layup away with poor recognition on defense. When you play the Bulls, you have to watch for Rose finding a rolling Carlos Boozer on the pocket bounce pass. You need to have your center slide over enough to cut off Boozer's dive to the rim. McGee was nowhere to be found as Boozer dove for an easy slam.
John Wall really attacked Rose early. Often times, I thought the drives were ill-advised, as he was forcing bad shots that he somehow made, but I understand the theory. He just has to be craftier about it, because Rose has developed into a really good defender after being poor early in his career. Wall has to make sure he understands that he can't win a war against Rose on his own. That's not his strength.
- The Wizards have to be willing to give the ball up quickly on pick and rolls when the Bulls trap them.
- Rose is simply phenomenal. It's hard to hold him down -- you really have to hope your big men are sliding their feet so well that they're beating him to the spot, which is so hard. If that fails, you have to hope he's not making absurd floaters, but he was tonight. The thing that impressed me most, though, was his defense. The key play: Trevor Booker knocked the ball away from Rose and pitched it ahead to Wall on a one-on-one fast break. Against literally any other player in the league, that's a layup. Rose stayed with him off the dribble, angled him off to the left and forced a wild shot that had no chance. Wall looked stunned after the play, and I don't blame him.
- Absurd floaters. Absurd.
- I will say that the Wizards were crowding Rose way too much. If he beats you shooting 19-foot jumpers, tip your cap. Don't always try to fight over the screen. Go under it and hope he's having a bad shooting day.
- Nice to see Trevor Booker show some stuff in the second quarter. This is his kind of game, and I like seeing the Wizards trying to post him up if only because using him to space the floor is problematic.
- The Bulls' defense really is fantastic. They hustle back and protect the rim incredibly well without fouling. It's really impressive. Love to know how they do it and what kind of practice is needed to ensure bigs keep their hands up.
- McGee altered a few Bulls shots at the rim with his very presence, allowing the Wizards to get out and run and get back into the game. This is why McGee can be both tantalizing and frustrating. His poor screen-setting kills the Wizards' offense, and he can be exposed in the pick and roll ... and yet, almost nobody in the league is scarier to drive at around the rim.
- Nick Young took some really bad shots in that second quarter.
- Still not understanding the defensive strategy on Rose. In the entire first half, they either double-teamed him at the top or let him go right while fighting over the screen. In the first quarter, he picked the Wizards apart by scoring. In the second quarter, he picked them apart by passing. When he starts going right, he can beat you in so many ways. He can cross over. He can throw in a little inside-out dribble. He can throw a pocket bounce pass. He can throw a crosscourt pass to the corner shooter. When he goes left, he can't do those things as well, and when he is given space over the top, all he really can do is shoot. The Wizards have to figure out a way to limit Rose's options better than they did in the first half.
- How frustrating is it to always get to the rim, but miss layups among the trees? That's Chicago's defense that caused all of the Wizards' missed shots around the basket.
- Helping off Kyle Korver in the corner to cut off Joakim Noah's dribble penetration is fairly bad decision-making defensively. That, combined with his poor dribbling exhibition on the offensive end, caused him to be benched.
- Jan Vesely's lack of a perimeter game was a huge liability against the Bulls' half-court defense. I realize he doesn't have a jumper, but he has to look to create his offense every so often to keep the defense honest. That doesn't even have to be a jumper. He can fake a weakside pass and take it to the rim every once in a while.
- Rose, man.
- I'm really not sure what Kevin Seraphin intends to accomplish when he runs around on offense.
- A Roger Mason dribble-drive from the baseline is not a high-percentage play.
- Speaking of Mason, I strongly doubt his presence in the game for so long was based on merit. Instead, I think Wittman was benching Young for poor play, in his ongoing attempt to provide more accountability.
- I will say that Booker was really good in this game. He pressured Rose on the press and rotated back defensively to cut off drives. He'd be even better if he could play with some better shooters that could mask his deficiencies.
- I also will say that the never stopped playing late in the game. It means little in the standings, but it's the kind of little victory that the Wizards can take playing such a strong team. It shows character to fight back when the game could have been a blowout. McGee and Booker in particular really worked the offensive glass.
- The Wizards need to find an experienced combo guard who can help teach Wall how to change speeds. I'm not sure who is out there, but man, if this team had someone like Jason Terry, it'd provide for great peer learning. Wall can't honestly believe he can beat great point guard defenders like Rose going straight at him with speed.
- Stop settling for long jumpers, please. Young, Crawford and Wall all took shots they can't honestly hit. Flip-side, of course, is that there aren't really any shots the Wizards can hit against a team like Chicago.
In the end, the Wizards can take away some positives, but their roster is still so far behind Chicago's. That's something no coach and no star can fix on their own.