Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

With the NBA season just two days old, the New York Knicks will host the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night as each team looks to kick off its 2014-15 campaign on the right note.

After failing to make the postseason in 2013-14, the Knicks will debut their new-look squad headlined by rookie head coach Derek Fisher.

Like their opponents, the Bulls spent the offseason revamping their roster, adding veteran big man Pau Gasol to a star-studded roster. Former MVP Derrick Rose will look to lead his potential powerhouse squad from the get-go after missing a significant portion of the past two regular seasons.

Though expectations are certainly higher for the Bulls, both rosters have the potential to compete as the season progresses.

For now, they’ll look to get the upper hand out of the gate.

Keep it locked here on Bleacher Report for live commentary, analysis and highlights.

 

Tip-off: 8:00 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPN

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Will Pau Gasol Be Odd Man Out Again in Chicago Bulls Frontcourt?

The Chicago Bulls have an embarrassment of riches in the frontcourt, and they’re starting to figure out just how uncomfortable that embarrassment can be.

The Bulls didn’t need to add four-time All-Star Pau Gasol to the fold this offseason. They already had a productive, cohesive frontcourt combo in Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, plus intriguing stretch 4 Nikola Mirotic set to make his NBA debut.

Similarly, Gasol had other options to call his basketball home outside the Windy City. He was said to be on the radar of the New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. A door was also opened for Gasol to return to the Los Angeles Lakers on an eight-figure salary, per ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin.

That said, something brought the two sides together. Gasol told reporters he had “prioritized being on a championship-caliber team.” Bulls general manager Gar Forman lauded the fact that Gasol has “been a championship-caliber player.”

Both parties sought one another for the same reason, but that won’t make the transition a smooth one. Not with Noah, Gibson and Gasol all deserving of starting and closing minutes that only two can fill.

In a full embrace of his diplomatic duties, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been attacking this issue at every opportunity.

He told reporters at training camp he saw all three interior players “as starters.” He added that “we have three guys…that I know we can finish with.”

Thibodeau has maintained that the key is each player’s willingness to sacrifice on behalf of the team. As he explained, this is a fluid situation that will impact every player involved:

There will be times when Pau may sit, Taj may sit, Jo may sit, they have to put the team first. When they’re in there, do everything they can to help the team win, and when they’re not in there cheer your teammates on, know what’s going on in the game, be a great teammate. And we’ve always had great spirit here, and I think it goes back to the leadership of our main core guys that have been around.

For the core that is so well-versed in Thibodeau‘s way, this is nothing out of the ordinary.

Despite whispers of his unhappiness, Gibson has said he is ready and willing to reprise the reserve role that nearly netted him Sixth Man of the Year honors last season:

“Sitting wouldn’t be hard at all because we’re all trying to win a championship,” Gibson said, per Johnson. “Things are going to happen and we just have to follow what the coach says. I’m cool with that. However the game is going or if Thibs feels he sees someone playing better than me, that’s fine.”

For a franchise that has survived (essentially) two lost seasons for its face, Derrick Rose, by relying largely on effort and chemistry, Gibson’s team-first attitude hardly comes as a surprise.

Gasol may well be chasing the same goal as Gibson, but the 34-year-old has a different take when it comes to sacrificing critical playing time. Unlike Gibson, Gasol has been the guy for an NBA team before, so falling from that role to that of a crunch-time spectator might be more than he can handle.

“I like to be on the floor when the game is on the line,” Gasol told reporters after a recent practice. “That’s what I’ve been getting paid for my entire career.”

If that comment sounds even vaguely familiar, it should. Gasol raised similar concerns during the 2012-13 season when the Lakers found it was easier to move him to the bench than try to fit both him and Dwight Howard into former coach Mike D’Antoni’s perimeter-oriented offense.

While some players see starting as nothing more than a status, closing a contest is different. With the clock ticking down and a limited number of possessions available, teams need to maximize the value of each trip. That leads most coaches to deploy their five best players down the stretch, though there is some wiggle room open for offensive and defensive substitutions.

A lot of late-game roster decisions wind up being based on matchups, but some players are talented enough to stay on the floor regardless of the situation. Gasol seems to think he is one of those players and recently explained that it’s never a good thing to be taken off the floor in the final minutes.

“That’s not a good sign when you’re put in that position because the coach doesn’t rely on you to deliver in those minutes,” Gasol said. “So, basically, he doesn’t trust you. He trusts someone else to do the job. So it’s not a good sign for you.”

Truth be told, this isn’t a matter of trust or bad omens. Rather, potentially pulling Gasol late in games may have far more to do with the level of talent that now surrounds him.

With Gibson and Noah, the Bulls have as good an interior defensive tandem as any team in the league. With those two on the floor, Chicago surrendered just 97.2 points per 100 possessions last season. Each player has the size and physicality to bang underneath and the quickness and athleticism to defend away from the basket, so the Bulls don’t have to form their defensive plan based around an opposing offense.

Few teams have such a luxury, and Chicago would be wise to exploit it. If the Bulls need to nurse a narrow lead through crunch time, a Gibson-Noah frontcourt could be the best way to protect it.

Thibodeau has wisely left the door open when it comes to his closing five. But as ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell wrote, the smart money rests on Thibodeau eventually passing over Gasol in favor of two far superior defenders:

It would come as a big surprise if Noah and Gibson weren’t on the floor together when the game mattered most. Thibodeau has repeatedly praised Gibson as being arguably the Bulls’ best fourth-quarter player. Noah is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. That leaves Gasol as the odd man out on most nights. 

There may be a situation here or there when the Bulls need more offense and Thibodeau decides to leave Gasol in longer down the stretch. But more often than not, Thibodeau is going to go with the guys he trusts most. As history has shown, he’ll almost always lean toward a more defensive-minded lineup late.

The defensive gap between Gibson and Noah and Gasol is staggering.

Of the 75 players who faced at least five shots at the rim per game last season, both Gibson and Noah finished among the 15 stingiest in terms of field-goal percentage allowed (44.9, eighth, and 47.2, 14th, respectively), per NBA.com’s SportVU player tracking data. Gasol tied for 65th by allowing a 54.8 percent conversion rate.

Gasol’s inability to protect the basket is particularly concerning given the way Father Time has curtailed his effectiveness in other defensive areas. He was never the fleetest of foot and has lost a lot of lateral quickness he couldn’t afford to give up.

In other words, Gasol won’t do a lot other than guard the rimand even that has been an issue.

While some may think Gasol’s offensive skill set might justify his defensive deficiencies, this team may not need as much scoring help as it would seem.

Between Rose’s return, the development of the incumbents and the offseason arrivals of Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Aaron Brooks, the Bulls should pack a mighty offensive punch. Gasol can add something to that attack, but his talents aren’t exactly a seamless fit alongside Noah’s.

Gasol has lost some of his low-post power, and his real estate under the rim could be crowded given Noah’s lack of a mid-range shot. Both are great at finding off-ball cutters, but even that gift could be hard to unleash with limited spacing.

Gibson, on the other hand, can play well off anyone. He doesn‘t need touches to be effective, whether he’s finishing lobs above the rim or doing damage on the offensive glass.

With Rose back to dominating the ball and Noah having proved himself as a creator, the Bulls could have a hard time getting Gasol’s best without limiting their other players. Given the sacrifices they would already be making at the opposite end, they might run short on reasons to give Gasol heavy minutes down the stretch.

He can still play a valuable role as an offensive safety valve or a second-team focal point throughout the game, but the Bulls could get a greater two-way impact from Gibson at closing time.

If Gasol sees that as a demotion or an overall loss, that’s really unfortunate. If it’s the best option for the Bulls, it should be the best option for him.

And if decides to buy in, this is an incredibly good “problem” to have. With three solid options—four if Mirotic is ready—to fill two spots, the Bulls should have ready, rested players for any situation.

But Gasol has to realize what he should have noticed when he signed on the dotted line: These Bulls might really enjoy having him around, but they were championship contenders before he put pen to paper.

It’s his responsibility to find his place within the franchise. The Bulls will not and should not alter their winning formula just for him.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Chicago Bulls Need To Send A Message In NBA Opener

The playacting is done.  Preseason is over.  The Chicago Bulls see their NBA quest unfolding in New York, and they have to send a message.
Remind Carmelo Anthony What He Could Have Joined
First of all, and perhaps a bit selfishly, the Bulls need to head into Madison Square Garden with a chip on their shoulder.  After all, they pulled out all the stops in order to convince All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony he would’ve been a perfect fit with them in Chicago.  Instead he chose to stay with the New York Knicks for more money.  It was an honest choice, but that should not stop the Bulls from giving him a nice, stark reminder of what he could’ve joined.
Win On The Road Brings Good Confidence
More importantly though is the game itself.  No team likes to start off an NBA season with a loss.  The Chicago Bulls are no different.  Nothing is a guarantee for them in this matchup, but it’s in the Big Apple with the national media watching.  A win on the road to start the year would do wonders for their conf

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Top 10 Michael Jordan Moments With Chicago Bulls

It was 30 years ago that the Chicago Bulls placed their future in the hands of a young guard from North Carolina named Michael Jordan.  Nobody at the time understood the magnitude of what had occurred but over the course of the next 14 years the man would paint one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of professional sports, not just NBA basketball.  He did everything from score to defend to lead to trash talk and did it all better than anybody on the planet.
A lot of people these days still can’t comprehend how much Jordan means to the sport of basketball, never mind the Chicago Bulls fans.  He borders on god-like status, or perhaps an olden day boogeyman if you live in Cleveland or Salt Lake City.  The point is every challenge that was thrown his way, he met and overcame.  Rookie of the Year.  Defensive Player of the Year.  Top 5 scorer of all-time.  Five-time league MVP.  Six-time world champion.  Six-time Finals MVP.  There really isn’t that much to say about what he did that his hig

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Chicago Bulls: The Good News and Bad News

With the 2014-2015 NBA season imminent, what are some good and bad things to take away about the Chicago Bulls?
Bad News:  Defense Not Showing Up
Yes, it’s preseason but one of the challenges that was going to face the Bulls this coming season was finding out if head coach Tom Thibodeau could field his customary strong defense while also getting more offensive output from their off-season acquisitions.  Thus far the results are mixed.  After eight games they gave up 96.3 points per game.  That might not sound too bad but the more bothersome part of that stat is it went from 92.7 in the first four games to 100 is the final four.  In their final game the team surrendered a 13-point lead late in the second half.  Is that a sign of things to come?
Good News:  Derrick Rose Is Scoring
People were worried about his ability to put the ball in the basket after a very uneven performance for team U.S.A in the world championships, but Derrick Rose has come on hard over the past couple weeks with a series of stro

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Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Chicago Bulls 10/24/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Chicago Bulls looked to score a preseason win on Friday night when they faced the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Bulls continued to reintegrate point guard Derrick Rose into the offense and faced a tough test from the young Timberwolves.

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Chicago Bulls Players Losing Minutes with Their Preseason Performance

The NBA preseason is about development and acclimation, first and foremost. It takes some time to work the rust out of bodies that haven’t played the five-on-five game all summer. But for many, it’s also a tryout of sorts.

And since the Chicago Bulls come into the 2014-15 season with a handful of fresh pieces to work in, many of their new players are certainly on display for coach Tom Thibodeau’s judgment. While what he’s seen, and will see, in practice certainly matters, there’s an extra edge of expectation to game time that tells the coach something significant about his new men.

Rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic have impressed Thibodeau. Their respective work ethics and understandings of the team game have left him pleased with both, even if he remains mum on whether either will crack the rotation. Here’s Thibodeau on integrating the two, via ESPN’s Nick Friedell:

I like the way [McDermott] and Nikola come in every day. I don’t know when, but I do believe it’s going to happen. They’re both great workers, they have a great approach to what we’re doing, but it’s a big jump. They have to show that they’re capable of doing their job out there and they’re helping their team. And it’s not just how they’re playing individually, it’s how they’re playing with the group. The group has to function well when they’re on the floor.

Even though he won’t commit to giving his rookies minutes, it seems clear that McDermott and Mirotic haven’t lost any playing time in the preseason. Despite some expected sloppiness, both have found ways to positively impact games—going after rebounds and creating turnovers when their shots aren’t falling. If there’s anything that makes Thibodeau happy, it’s that kind of gamey persistence.

The same can’t be said, unfortunately, for Bulls sophomore Tony Snell.

Snell has had limited playing time in the preseason, breaking the 20-minute mark just twice and shooting a paltry 30 percent from the field. He hasn’t shown promise as a defender, either—despite his length. Lineups including Snell haven’t functioned better than McDermott or Mirotic lineups on the whole, and so it would seem that Snell is moving down the depth chart in 2014-15.

Aside from these three youngsters, Aaron Brooks is the remaining Bull who’s really fighting for playing time in exhibition games. The rest of the team will either decidedly get their minutes or decidedly not; Brooks is on the fence. Between Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, Thibodeau arguably already has what he needs in the point guard division. Brooks has to prove something.

So far, the journeyman’s results have been unsurprisingly mixed.

Like Nate Robinson, C.J. Watson and John Lucas III before him, Brooks is a peripheral offensive option who’s going to give up a lot defensively while bringing occasional scoring feasts to Chicago but also plenty of famines. After an ineffectual, six-point effort in the preseason opener against the Washington Wizards, Brooks came back the next night to make three three-pointers and score 18 against the Detroit Pistons.

More important to Thibodeau than Brooks’ shot, though, is his defense and team play. The point guard is prone to errant decision-making, and on defense he is simply not large or strong enough to hang with a lot of the league’s elite.

Kyrie Irving torched Brooks in the Bulls’ loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, scoring most of his 28 points with Derrick Rose on the bench. This does not bode well for Brooks’ playing time. And while Hinrich hasn‘t been a world-killer himself, he’s got tenure in Chicago and his coach’s invaluable trust.

The most likely path for Brooks and extended minutes is an injury on the roster—and between Hinrich and Rose, you know there will be some games missed. In the preseason, however, Brooks looks like no more than what he is: an insurance policy.

At the top of the roster, we know Thibodeau‘s veterans are locked in. Rose, Hinrich, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Mike Dunleavy and Taj Gibson are all sure things. Though each has had growing pains in the preseason, none of them will lose minutes for what he does in exhibition play.

Noah—who’s battling some knee issues after arthroscopic surgery—may play less and hand time to Gibson in the short term. But in the long run, Thibodeau will lean on him hard. Nothing about the core is really changing in the preseason.

McDermott and Mirotic, despite being rookies, seem to be trending positively toward playing time with their own performances. But Snell and Brooks may have dug themselves into the holes beneath Thibodeau‘s rotation.

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Chicago Bulls Players Winning Minutes with Their Preseason Performance

For some Chicago Bulls players, preseason is basically a warm-up for the regular season. For others, it’s a chance to impress the coaching staff and earn playing time.

Jimmy Butler, who’s currently out with a sprained thumb, won’t have to worry about playing time once he returns. The fourth-year swingman will see the court a lot this year due to being one of the game’s top perimeter defenders. A season ago, he played 38.7 minutes per game, tying Carmelo Anthony for the league’s highest average.

Stars Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol will surely get their share of minutes. You can add role players Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich to the list as well. Their track records speak for themselves.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will need nine or 10 players for his regular-season rotation. Who could earn the final spots based on their preseason performances?

 

Aaron Brooks

After a fantastic summer league, Tony Snell was expected to play a valuable role this year behind Butler at shooting guard. But so far, it appears he’s the odd man out.

Snell’s minutes have been taken by newcomer Aaron Brooks, who’s backing up Rose at the point. This allows Hinrich to slide over to the shooting guard spot.

Brooks has put together a couple of solid performances, although he isn’t shooting the ball well (33.3 percent overall).

Against the Detroit Pistons, he came up with 18 points, three assists and three steals while shooting 3-of-6 from downtown. And in 15 minutes versus the Charlotte Hornets, Brooks contributed 13 points, three assists and a pair of three-pointers.

If you’ve followed the Bulls over the past few years, you’re aware that scoring backup point guards have flourished in Thibodeau’s system. Nate Robinson and D.J. Augustin—now with the Denver Nuggets and Pistons, respectively—are perfect examples. Brooks could very well be the next guy.

CSNChicago.com’s Mark Schanowski believes Thibodeau trusts his new reserve floor general:

It’s pretty obvious Thibodeau is high on Brooks, who has always been able to score in his six NBA seasons, including averaging 19.6 points per game for the Rockets in 2009-10. Brooks gives the Bulls another quick point guard who can break down defenses off the dribble. That will allow the offense to maintain the same kind of pace when Rose is out of the game. Brooks has been too quick at times in jacking up 3-point shots during the preseason, but given the Bulls’ offensive challenges at times, it appears Thibodeau is willing to live with his shoot-first mentality.

Brooks will likely be a part of the rotation throughout the regular season. He can provide instant offense and serves as an insurance policy in case Rose goes down with another injury.

 

Nikola Mirotic

Known for his shooting ability, Nikola Mirotic has made a few nice defensive plays during the preseason. He has recorded at least two steals in four of his seven contests. Plus, he impressively blocked three shots against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Mirotic’s 11 steals lead the Bulls, and he’s tied with Butler for third on the team in blocks with six.

Following the Bucks game, Sam Smith of NBA.com compared Mirotic to Bobby Jones: ”Mirotic, who was hesitant and uncertain with his shot, was quick defensively, also with three blocks and adding a pair of steals. Advertised as the next Bob McAdoo, this game he was more like the next Bobby Jones.”

For all you young NBA fans out there, Bob McAdoo was the original “stretch 4,” and Bobby Jones served as a defensive specialist back in the day.

While Mirotic has a long way to go until he’s considered a great defender, Thibodeau must be pleased with his effort on that end of the floor. Playing D is the best way to make Thibs’ rotation. Everybody knows that.

The highlight of Mirotic’s preseason, though, was his debut against the Washington Wizards. Looking like a young Dirk Nowitzki, the 6’10” big man scored 17 points and hit five of his nine field-goal attempts (3-of-5 from beyond the arc).

His 12 points and four steals versus the Denver Nuggets weren’t too shabby either. 

Mirotic has shown the ability to run the floor, shoot, put the ball on the floor and play defense. Barring injury, he won’t be a major part of the rotation this year, but he’ll receive spot minutes depending on the matchup.

 

Doug McDermott

We go from one highly touted rookie to another.

Doug McDermott will definitely get minutes this season. The Bulls didn’t trade away two first-round picks for his services to have him become a Brian Scalabrine-like cheerleader.

An elite shooter during his time at Creighton, McDermott hasn’t seen his shot fall consistently in the preseason. He’s shooting just 37.5 percent overall and 33.3 percent from deep.

Fortunately, he is more than just a shooter. Starting in place of an injured Mike Dunleavy, McDermott showcased his all-around skills against Milwaukee, recording seven points, eight rebounds, three assists and a block.   

It’s a good thing he isn’t a one-trick pony. Even if you’re Ray Allen or Steph Curry, there will be days when your shot won’t find the bottom of the net.

His jumper looked great versus Denver, though, as he shot 5-of-8 from the field and finished with a preseason-high 16 points.

Averaging 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds a night, McDermott has been one of the Bulls’ top reserves so far. Perhaps he’ll replace Dunleavy as a starter within the first few months of the regular season.

 

All stats are from Basketball-Reference.com.  

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Chicago Bulls’ Biggest Red Flags Entering This Season

The Chicago Bulls have had a very promising preseason, but there have also been quite a few issues throughout the exhibition games.

Derrick Rose‘s return has been exciting for the Bulls, and the new, revamped roster has looked really good at times. However, some of the same problems from years past are still present.

Chicago’s offense has seriously struggled in some games, and the second unit has had some similar troubles with its small backcourt. It’s led to some very slow starts for the Bulls, leaving them to fight and crawl their way back into games.

But one of the biggest issues going into the opener is their health.

Jimmy Butler is dealing with ligament sprains in his thumb, and while not believed to be of high concern, it’s taking away from on-court time with the rest of the starters. Joakim Noah is coming off knee surgery and hasn’t looked as spry and explosive as before.

This Bulls team has undoubtedly improved, but there are still a few issues to work out.

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Derrick Rose Showing He Can Speed Chicago Bulls Back into Contention

COLUMBUS — It was but a blur, what happened back on May 26, 2011, a 12-point lead erased by the Miami Heat‘s 18-3 sprint to the buzzer, LeBron James celebrating an Eastern Conference championship on the recently crowned MVP’s home floor.

“At the end, it’s all me,” Derrick Rose lamented late that night. “Turnovers, missed shots, fouls.”

But, hey, at least he had his health. 

One knee shredded. Then, after a heralded returnand 10 games of 35.4 percent shootingthe other. 

Life has come at Derrick Rose fast.

Monday night, he came back at James’ new team even faster. 

“The fastest guy on the court by far,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said, smiling. 

That was the most meaningful takeaway from the preseason clash of expected Eastern Conference titans, an encounter that felt a bit like an extended trailer, a week prior to the premiere of the major motion picture.

Maybe the only meaningful takeaway: Rose is winning his matchup.

Not the one with Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, though he did outscore his USA teammate, 30-28, in 14 fewer minutes of the Cavs’ 107-98 win, and did turn him into a turnstile on assorted occasions. 

Rose is winning the matchup…against himself.

Against his body, his luck, his doubts, or anything else that may hold him back from becoming something close to what he was. 

And if he wins that matchup, then this rivalry can be something close to what many NBA fans hope it will be, one in which each side will have considerable reason to respect and fear and loathe the other.

If Rose is absent or even ordinary, then a slew of squadsWashington Wizards, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, maybe even the Charlotte Hornets or Atlanta Hawkshave reasonable shots to claim a top-two spot in the East, even with Chicago bolstering the rest of the supporting cast around a team Noah led to a third seed in 2013-14. 

As James said during his postgame interview after the exhibition on the Ohio State University campus, “There’s too many teams in the Eastern Conference to just talk about the two of us.” 

But if Rose plays like he did Monday, all conference conversations, at least for this season, will stop and start here, with these two squads. Then all the other matchups will matter. Pau Gasol working against Anderson Varejao on one end. Kevin Love working against Joakim Noah on the other. James working against Jimmy Butler when Butler returns from a wrist injury, and against Thibodeau’s scheme, which has been one of the more compelling coach-player intellectual exercises in recent years, dating back to Thibodeau’s days as the Celtics‘ de facto defensive coordinator.  

“Thibs is going to play you how Thibs is going to play everybody,” said James, who recorded 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists in his final appearance of the preseason. “It doesn’t change. I’ve been against Thibs defenses for a long time. In Boston. And then coming to Chicago. He plays you the same way. Very aggressive. Kind of filters you into the paint. Don’t give you no 3′s. Wants you to take contested 2′s. Always keeps a body on you. We have the personnel for it, but it’s how we place the personnel out on the floor to help us succeed. I’ll be able to give some insight on them. It obviously won’t be (Monday) and it might not even be the second game of the season. But long-term so we can be ready for their defense.”

James will try to get his team to replicate his recent playoff success against the Bulls (8-2 while with Miami) rather than his regular-season struggles (5-8 while with the Heat), even if he actually has shot better against Thibodeau’s Bulls in the regular season (52.1 percent) than in the playoffs (44.2 percent).

The question is: What postseason round will the Cavaliers-Bulls matchup come?

That depends on Rose.

Solely on Rose. 

So there’s no way to overstate what was witnessed Monday, especially in the second and third quarters, when he scored 23 points on 13 shots in just over 11 minutes, routinely accelerating past and then splitting two, three, four or five defendersbefore finishing with a floater or a layup on either side of the rim.

Irving, Dion Waiters, Matthew Dellavadova, didn’t matter. At times, the Cavaliers looked like they were trying to trap a lizard while wearing slippers on a slick floor. At others, Rose’s jabstep had them backpedaling as abruptly and awkwardly as politicians after taking unpopular positions, giving him the space to sink four three-pointers, one-quarter of his total from the truncated 2013-14 season.

“Just playing,” Rose said, without the slightest excitement. “Staying consistent with my workouts, no matter how I’m playing. Still trying to find my rhythm. Let the game come to me, and just play team basketball. Really, they were just giving me shots that I normally would take. The team is feeling more comfortable with me being on the floor, I’m feeling comfortable with just picking my spots.”

And, at the end, James paid him the ultimate compliment, by picking him up on defense, as he’s previously done down the stretch of tight playoff games.

“I’m not surprised at all,” James said of Rose’s performance, noting that he had watched the latter practice for Team USA in Las Vegas, and seen some of his games in the preseason. “As a league, as a fan, it’s great to have him back, and him playing at a high level.” 

As a Bull?

Well, Thibodeau isn’t known for his ebullience: If he won the lottery, he might drone on about the need for an experienced accountant to carefully consider all of the tax implications. So this particular postgame press conference was about as giddy as he gets, with glowing adjectives added for emphasis. 

“I thought he played really well,” Thibodeau said. “He had a lot of explosiveness. Back-to-back, he got into a good rhythm. He was attacking. You know, it was good. Real good.”

Thibodeau acknowledged that Rose has “been up and down,” but he observed that recent practices have been better, and that Rose’s Team USA experiencewith five games in six days in one stretchgave both of them confidence that the guard could handle a greater workload. 

How will Rose’s re-emergence affect others?

“Oh, you’re talking about an MVP caliber player,” Thibodeau said. “So it makes the game easy for everybody. He’s getting easy baskets in transition, he’s attacking on the pick-and-roll, he’s in the paint, making plays. So it’s a positive.” 

Enough that it left Noah positively glowing. 

“I like his mentality,” he said. “He’s aggressive. I think we’re gonna be… I think we’re gonna be really good.” 

Monday night, the blur in red gave no cause to think otherwise. 

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