After the worst three game stretch of his career, Derrick Rose broke out in a big way on Thursday. Despite getting off to a slow start against the Thunder, he scored 18 points in the second half and made some key plays down the stretch to give the Bulls a much needed victory.
While Rose was on top form, his performance was aided by some poor defense from the Thunder.
No. 1: The Sign
As gifted as he is offensively, Enes Kanter is a huge minus on defense. On Thursday, for example, his Offensive Rating was 100.4 and his Defensive Rating was 127.3 in 22 minutes of play, per NBA.com. Knowing that, the Bulls attacked him repeatedly in the pick-and-roll in the fourth quarter that led to a number of easy buckets. Unfortunately for Kanter, Russell Westbrook did little to prevent his teammate from getting stuck on an island.
On this play, Westbrook runs underneath Gasol’s screen — smart seeing as Rose is 0-for-9 from 3-point range this season — but peels back at the last second to stick to a popping Gasol. (A minute earlier, it should be noted, Gasol stuck a midrange jumper on a similar play.) While Kanter does a good job of contesting his floater, he fails to secure the rebound and Rose makes them pay on the second opportunity.
No. 2: Isolation
Running another pick-and-roll between Rose and Gasol, Westbrook does a better job of trailing the play and forcing Rose into a tough position. With Gasol popping to the free throw line, however, Rose has an easy escape and the Bulls compose themselves with 12 seconds remaining on the shot clock.
Rather than sticking with Rose, though, Westbrook runs out to Gasol and leaves Kanter guarding Rose on an isolation. With no help in sight — notice E’Twaun Moore clearing out — Rose dribbles the ball out to the perimeter, hits Kanter with a step-back and nails the jump shot.
Another simple play.
No. 3: The Foul
This time, Gasol rolls to the rim rather than popping, which forces Westbrook to follow him towards the basket. It also leaves Kanter guarding Rose yet again, which hasn’t been working too well to this point.
Instead of settling for another jump shot following the pick-and-roll, Rose takes Kanter off the dribble and draws a foul en route to the basket. Rose sinks two free throws and makes it a two possession game.
No. 4: Confidence
At this point, Rose is feeling it. He’s already taken advantage of Westbrook’s defense a number of times in the second half by blowing by for uncontested layups, sort of like this. He’s knocked down a couple of midrange jump shots, too, sort of like this.
So, while Westbrook wisely funnels him towards the baseline on this play, Rose is given far too much space to prevent him from making a move. Rose confidently rises for another midrange jump shot and knocks it down.
No. 5: The Step-Back
Another pick-and-roll, another switch, another step-back jumper. This basket was sort of a killer for the Thunder.
No. 6: Pau Gasol post-up
Here’s the problem the Thunder will be faced with all season long: Even when they made the adjustment of putting Ibaka on Gasol, giving them a far better chance of slowing down Rose in isolation, the Bulls simply exploited a different mismatch.
With a four point lead heading into the final minute of the game, the Bulls run another pick-and-roll between Rose and Gasol. Rather than taking Ibaka one-on-one, though, Rose calmly dribbles the ball out to the perimeter and feeds Gasol in the post with Westbrook guarding him.
Nobody helps Westbrook in the post and Gasol scores on a simple hook shot.