Bulls vs. Celtics: There are Two Point Guards in the Series, Right?
Before game three at the United Center, staff littered the stadium with roses in a play on words for Derrick Rose, just one day after receiving word that he had won the Rookie of the Year award.
Rose became the third Bull to win the award, joining Elton Brand and Michael Jordan in some pretty stellar company. Before the game, he was given his trophy by David Stern and raised is above his head to a standing ovation from the home crowd, all dressed in red.
48 minutes later, Rajon Rondo had given Rose a lesson in how to play the point in a playoff game.
In game one, Rose was stunning as he matched Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie debut record with 36 points, and also added 11 assists in a 108-105 win over the Boston Celtics. Facebook statuses and Chicago newspapers alike were booming with praises for Rose and calling for his Rookie of the Year award to be replaced with an MVP award.
Two games later, I am left wondering if he is even the best point guard in the series.
Seemingly going unnoticed, Rondo has led the Celtics back from the game one defecit to retake home court and a 2-1 lead with one more game at the United Center. For the series, Rondo is averaging 22.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 4.0 steals, 2.0 turnovers, and shooting 50 percent from the field. Every one of those stats lead the Celtics in the playoffs. Tell me again why we are talking about Rose?
Yes, I am in the Midwest and am going to hear the praises of Rose, but even the ESPN outlets are giving the praise to Rose for being the rookie that is going to take the Bulls past the defending champs for the second time in three years (the Bulls knocked off Miami in 2007).
But where is the love for Rondo, the other point guard that has completely taken his game to a new level and become the leader of the Celtics with Garnett on the side?
I realize he is not KG, cussing out the Bulls bench any time TNT shows him. He isn’t sharpshooter Ray Allen despite being two for four from downtown in the series, and he isn’t the veteran Paul Pierce who seemingly gets it done every night. No, he is the outsider looking in on the Boston Three Party, but make no mistake: he is the engine that makes it run.
Meanwhile, you have Derrick Rose who is just getting taken to school by the Celtics defense now that they know what kind of player Rose is trying to be. In game one, Rose was 12-19 from the field, with 13 of those attempts coming in the paint primarily on drives.
In games two and three, Rose has taken a combined 12 shots in the lane and has had to rely on his jump shot, which he clearly does not have down. Anyone that watched game one knows the potential Rose has and he was unstoppable that game.
But he isn’t there just yet and the last two games have showed it. Whether Rose got a little too cocky or the Celtics put the clamp down, Rose has looked awful in the last two games and tried to do way too much on offense. Rose is averaging 4.7 turnovers for the playoffs and a lot of those turnovers have come from Rondo defense.
Speaking of which, aren’t these two guarding each other? Rondo is down two inches in height on Rose but has proved that is hardly a problem, leading the league in steals for the first three games of the playoffs. He has been quicker than Rose, more physical than Rose, and definitely more in control.
Rose, like every other guard for the Bulls, has not wanted it on defense. Rose has just one steal in three games and has let Rondo get most any shot he wants. The Bulls have failed to switch on screens and have overall been lazy. Joakim Noah needs to sit down with Ben Gordon and Rose and let them know that the defending champs can do more than clamp down on defense: they can score, too.
Yes, Rondo has been in the league for three years. He has played and won an NBA Finals game and has a championship under his belt. He is playing with two of the best outside shooters in the league on his team and a couple of great inside players.
But he has become the leader of this team and, if the series were to end today, he would be the MVP. Rose is a rookie that was thrown into a leadership role and has done an unbelievable job dealing with the stress, pressure, and emotions that come with it.
He also has not come close to matching what Rondo has done this series. It’s true that Rondo has not won a game by himself in this series like Rose did in game one, but don’t think for one second that if Stephon Marbury was running the show in game two the result would have been the same.
In three years, I hope that Derrick Rose is lighting it up and putting on a show at the United Center in the NBA Finals. As for tomorrow and the rest of the series, let’s focus on the point guard that is single-handedly showing Rose up and getting no credit for it: Rajon Rondo.