Derrick Rose would appear to be facing the most important fourth quarter of his career tonight.
That’s what happens when your last two fourth quarters have been awful and your team has lost control of the Eastern Conference finals.
That's one basket more than Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Heck, that’s one more basket than James Naismith, who’s been dead for, I don’t know, 70 years.
Look, if the Bulls'’ Big One is barely going to outplay Mike Bibby in the only quarter that matters in the NBA, then we can just call this thing right now.
Miami, meanwhile, is getting everything it needs at the most critical time from the pretty, shiny things it bought last summer. LeBron James gave the Heat 10 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3. Same goes for Chris Bosh. Dwyane Wade combined with James for seven points in Miami’s decisive 9-0 run in the middle of the final period. Miami’s best players were their best players.
The Bulls’ best player was, well, nowhere. That’s two final periods and counting. Speaking of counting, you can’t count on Luol Deng much, either. If you can find him in the fourth quarter, I mean. Like Rose, Deng has made just one stinkin’ basket in six attempts and offset his three rebounds with three turnovers. And let’s not even talk about James’ 19 points total in the last two fourth quarters.
Point is, Rose needs to own the fourth quarter of Game 4 on Tuesday night. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau needs to let him own it.
Thibodeau wants Rose to make plays, of course, but he is forcing his creative superstar to do it with a ball and chain, also known as the pick-and-roll. At least, it’s a ball and chain the way the Bulls run it against the Heat. The pick-and-roll has to go. In the fourth quarter, anyway. It does not lead to baskets. It only leads to double-teams, and remember, Rose is already being guarded by James in a lot of cases. So, what happens is, Miami forces the ball out of the hands of the Bulls’ best player. Some of that passing is Rose’s choice. Some of it is by necessity. All of it has hurt the Bulls.
“I saw what the double-team did the last two games,’’ Rose said. “My passing the ball the majority of the time really isn't working. Or we're not running the right play to get people open.’’
Listen, the right play is the one where Rose makes a decision when he wants to make a decision, not when James and Udonis Haslem and various and sundry Heat force him to. Scrap the pick-and-roll right now. Go straight to isolation plays for Rose.
You know who likes that idea? Rose, that’s who.
“That would be great,’’ Rose said when asked about going iso or using “step-ups,’’ a screen play that opens up half the flor as his teammates clear out.
This does not mean the Bulls’ offense is 1-on-5, which is what it looks like now with the botched pick-and-rolls. This is a way to give Rose a better chance at open looks for shots and, yes, passes.
Theoretically, the second and third defenders would have farther to go and either be too slow to get to Rose or too slow to recover on their man. Either way, Rose has the ball with a chance to go to the basket or go to the foul line, which is something else the Heat have denied the Bulls by forcing Rose to give up the ball early.
Rose wasn’t exactly telling his coach what to do in the fourth quarter, but it sure sounded like he was telling his coach what needed to be done, and something must be changed here. Maybe many things. What they’re doing isn’t working. I mean, look at their totals for the last seven quarters: 20, 19, 10, 15, 25, 25, 20. They did not outscore the Heat in any of them. Win a game? The Bulls can’t even win a quarter.
If you’re going to change anything with the Bulls, you start with Rose, whose numbers have declined in this series compared to the first two rounds and compared to the opening against the Heat.
After averaging 28.2 points a game in the first two series, Rose has dropped to 23 against the Heat, and worse, he has shot a miserable 36 percent since his 28-point performance in Game 1 of this round.
Something has to change, and it’s pretty obvious what that is. It’s Rose’s team. It’s Rose’s basketball. It ought to be Rose’s choice to hold on to it longer. Connect the dots, Tom.