Bulls 88, Lakers 87
Derrick Rose hit a jumper with 4.8 left in the game to propel the Bulls past the Lakers on opening day. It was a stunner to some, but to the city of Chicago it was business as usual. Rose may have done MVP things at the end of the game, but it wasn’t all him in the game. He didn’t have any points in the first quarter and the way the team rallied showed their resilience. Here are three guys who were instrumental in getting the Bulls their opening day win in Los Angeles.
OVERALL — Luol Deng (21pts/7rebs/4stls)
Deng was a monster on Christmas and played Grinch to the Lakers. Deng showed up in a huge way in the fourth quarter and more specifically in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter. Deng drew huge fouls to earn trips to the line which ended up narrowing the Lakers lead. Down late, Deng stole the ball twice, once which drew a foul on Kobe Bryant and sent Deng to the line for the final time (where he hit his fifth and sixth free throws of the game) and the other time was to set up a Derrick Rose jumper that won the game. Deng stole the ball four times Sunday and rebounded it seven. His 21 points were the push the Bulls needed to get past the Lakers, a team they have now beaten two straight match ups.
OFFENSE — Derrick Rose (22pts/5asts)
For once in what seems like an entire season, the Bulls center star wasn’t a guy named Derrick Rose. Rose actually had a pretty average game for his standards, scoring just 22 and dealing out five assists. But it was his clutch ability to close out the game that earns Rose his first game ball of 2011. Rose made it his business to be the closer for Chicago last year and he continued that trend right into this one by calmly nailing a jump shot with 4.8 left to put Chicago up by one. The Lakers never got their footing after that to win the game and that’s thanks to Rose. He flusters teams with his seemingly natural knack to win games. It was like nothing for Rose to hit that shot, almost like he was saying ‘Okay now this is what I live for’. Clearly Rose is back to form and once he gets hot, the rest of the Bulls follow suit.
DEFENSE — Joakim Noah (9rebs/6pts/3stls)
Noah is a warrior and when he’s on his defensive game the Bulls win. He was on said game in Los Angeles, stealing the ball three times and rebounding it nine. When Noah rebounds the ball he gives this Bulls team a confidence. Although that confidence was a bit big headed in the third quarter, Noah was a defensive anchor for much of the game. He also managed six points which, although not expected from him, are nice to have in close games where every scrap of a point means something. His second chances he allows are as big if not bigger then all his other production and having Noah on his game right away means good things for the Bulls this season.