AUBURN HILLS, Mich — Derrick Rose didn’t play well Friday. The former league MVP was just 4-for-13 from the field, scoring eight points, dishing out six assists and turning the ball over five times. He missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer when he settled for a jumper that missed badly. That capped an all-around poor performance for Rose and his teammates, who struggled to find a rhythm all night.
As the Chicago Bulls quietly made their way out of the cramped visitor’s locker room inside the Palace, Rose had an explanation for why he struggled for most of the game.
“I was aiming at the wrong basket,” Rose said, referencing the double vision he is still experiencing as he recovers from a fractured left orbital bone. “Aiming at the wrong basket. That was about it.”
That summed up the Bulls’ night as a whole.
As a group, they were bad on Friday. The offense wasn’t as crisp as it was in the first two games, and the defense allowed far too many big baskets at the wrong times. The Bulls also turned the ball over 20 times, which gives them a total of 52 in three games.
But Rose will always garner more attention, given his stature as a former MVP. The loss to the Pistons marked just the 30th time in Rose’s career that he failed to score at least 10 points in a game, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
At times he had the bounce in his step to get to the lane — as he showed in the fourth quarter — and at other points he looked frustrated. It wasn’t like he didn’t have company. All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler was just 5-for-19 from the field. The difference is, Butler got to the free throw line 14 times and had 11 rebounds. Rose didn’t get to the foul line and had just two rebounds.
With the game tied at 83 in the waning moments, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg decided not to call a timeout and allowed Rose the freedom to operate. Rose would say later that he should have pump-faked Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to try and shake him but Pistons big man Andre Drummond cut the spacing on the floor.
“Derrick had been attacking and making plays in the fourth quarter and you trust him with the ball in his hands,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a guy that’s made a lot of big shots over the course of his career. Unfortunately we didn’t get a good one there at the end but I liked flowing into it.”
Rose has played well early this season, and has done so after missing almost all of training camp because of the orbital injury. But as the missed shots piled up Friday it was fair to wonder what was causing the issues. The double vision is one problem, but was the fact that Rose was playing his third game in four nights another?
“Maybe,” Hoiberg said. “He didn’t have a training camp. It was the third [game] in four nights. But he said he felt great, he said he felt good out there, he said his legs felt really good before the game. And he’s going to help us win a lot of basketball games this year.”
Rose is going to have better nights than he did Friday. His face will heal completely, and he will get his wind back in the next couple weeks so long as he can stay healthy. But the numbers are worth remembering as the Bulls begin the long grind of an NBA season.
Rose was significantly more productive last season when he got at least one day of rest in between games — he averaged almost four full points more per game (14.9 with no days in between compared to 18.8 points with one day in between games). The Bulls had a rest day on Thursday, but Rose still appeared to be off.
The third game in four nights, coupled with the lack of a preseason, may have caught up with him. Or maybe it was just an off night in a game where his teammates didn’t pick up the slack. No matter the reason, the numbers tell a story we aren’t used to seeing. Rose hasn’t had too many nights like this, and it’s up to him to show that it was just a blip on the radar, not a sign that he can’t dominate consistently the way he did before the injuries started piling up.
“My body feels good,” Rose said. “My body feels well. That’s what’s so frustrating about it because you wake up every morning and you want your eye to heal, be healed. But I guess this is a part of [the recovery]. Can’t rush it. You got to be patient and it’s improving every day like I say. So I just got to wait.”