After dominating Game 1 with a career-high 36 points (you may have heard about this), Derrick Rose finished Game 2 with a relatively harmless 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting, with no free throw attempts. How did the Celtics adjust after Game 1 to limit Rose’s scoring? If you watched their screen/roll defense, you saw the answer: the Celtics big guys were extremely aggressive in showing out on Rose, sometimes leaving their man (the screener) completely and chasing Rose around the court. And as Hardwood Paroxysm’s Matt Moore notes, they had a third defender lurking underneath, waiting.
Some examples from throughout the game:
1st Quarter, 11:04: On the Bulls second possession of the game, they go right to the Noah-Rose screen/roll that was so effective in Game 1. With Perk guarding him, Noah sets a screen for Rose at the top of the key. Rose dribbles to his left around the screen; Rondo fights over it cleanly, allowing Perk to show out only briefly before returning to Noah. Joakim stays in the same spot, and they reverse the play, this time with Rose dribbling around the screen to his right. Noah catches Rondo flush, forcing Perk to jump out and chase Rose over to the right wing. Perk covers him tightly until Rondo recovers; Rose forces up a contested jumper that misses.
1st Quarter, 9:38: Noah sets another screen just above the foul line, and Rondo goes under it as Rose dribbles to his right. This gives Rose space, which forces Perk to jump out on him aggressively–essentially trapping him once Rondo recovers. Rose fires a pass underneath to Noah, who has slithered into an open space. Ray Allen is forced to foul him to prevent an easy two.
2nd Quarter, 7:56: Rondo again goes under the screen (this time set by Brad Miller just above the foul line), but this time gets through traffic without falling too far away from Rose. Still, Perk drifts a few steps over toward Rose–enough to cut off the lane and at least make Rose think twice before shooting or driving. Miller, meanwhile, parks himself at his sweet spot–right on the foul line. Rose finds him, and Perk scrambles back to Miller. Brad (as we were warned by Matt “Kevin” McHale at By the Horns) pump fakes and drives past Perk; Big Baby collapses, and Miller dishes to Ty Thomas, who loses the ball.
3rd quarter, 4:13: It’s Miller setting a high screen for Rose again, and Rondo opts to go under. He doesn’t get through smoothly, forcing Perk to leave Miller completely and guard Rose. Rose can’t get the space to drive, so he dribbles in a semi-circle from the foul line down to the right baseline, extending Perk far out of his comfort zone. But Perk sticks with him, and Rose chooses to pass back to Miller, who’s still standing at the foul line. Miller air balls the jumper, but Noah has loads of space underneath to grab the ball and lay it in.
Perk was wonderful tonight on defense. He worked hard, he mostly made smart decisions and he was often the key player in getting the ball out of Rose’s hands. But the above examples show the obvious dangers of such an aggressive strategy on Rose: It creates holes in the defense. Brad Miller was the chief beneficiary tonight, with 16 points, a number that could have been 20 or more had a couple of lay-ups rolled in for him.
Ben Gordon got so hot (I know, I know the hot hand doesn’t actually exist) that we didn’t get to see the Bulls test the Celtics screen/roll strategy late in the game. The Bulls mostly ditched the screen/roll in favor of running Gordon around baseline or curl screens or isolating him against Ray Allen.
So it will be interesting to see how the coaches approach the Rose/Noah and Rose/Miller screen/rolls in Game on Thursday. Rest up, guys.