Surrounded by a trio of Trail Blazers on Monday night, Derrick Rose -- who finished with 13 assists -- spots an open Bulls teammate.
After watching Bulls point guard Derrick Rose carve up the defenses of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Detroit Pistons in the first two games of the season, the Portland Trail Blazers decided to try a different approach Monday.
Whenever the Bulls set a pick for Rose, the Blazers sent both defenders to trap him. Portland was intent on not letting Rose put up a big scoring number and double-teamed whenever possible.
The strategy was a success in this regard: Rose, who entered averaging 33.5 points, was held to 16.
The game plan, though, was an absolute failure in the only area that matters -- the scoreboard.
With so much attention on him, Rose turned playmaker, dished out a career-high-tying 13 assists and directed the Bulls' offense to 110 points on 43-for-71 (60.6 percent) shooting in a comfortable win.
''It's important to make the right play,'' coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''The responsibility of a primary scorer is when the second defender comes to hit the open man, and he's done that. When he's been in single coverage, Derrick has attacked, and he's been very effective.''
Small forward Luol Deng benefitted most from the attention the Blazers focused on Rose. With a variety of jump shots and drives, Deng racked up a career-high 40 points in the 110-98 win.
''That's what we want teams to do,'' Deng said. ''If a team is going to game-plan to trap Derrick, Derrick's going to lead the league in assists, and we're going to get a lot of open shots.
''I don't think a lot of teams are going to do that because we have a lot of guys that can make shots.''
A performance like Monday's makes you wonder exactly how explosive the Bulls can be offensively later in the season when Carlos Boozer (broken hand) returns and the players get more comfortable with Thibodeau's system.
''We've got guys that can score 40 points in a night, and we haven't even started with Booz yet,'' swingman Kyle Korver said. ''That says a lot about our team.''
Many expected the Bulls to struggle to score points during Boozer's absence -- especially nights when Rose didn't put up big numbers -- but that hasn't been a problem. Though they've struggled for stretches of games and often looked like a team with a new coach and eight new players, the Bulls still are averaging 102 points.
''We missed a lot of free throws, too,'' Korver said of Monday's 19-for-32 shooting from the line. ''It could have been a whole lot more. The potential for this offense is great. We have a lot of weapons, and we have a lot of offensive rebounders. That gives you that second chance.''
Korver had his best game as a Bull with 11 points in 22 minutes against Portland but is one of several players struggling to adjust to new surroundings and a new system.
''We haven't mastered very much yet; we've got a ways to go to understand the offense,'' Korver said. ''We've got guys still learning plays. We do it every day, though, and it'll come.''
Thibodeau's focus is on the defensive end because he believes the Bulls will become an even better offensive team when they perform more consistently defensively and stop committing so many fouls.
''The better our defense is, the better we rebound, the more [Rose is] in the open floor,'' Thibodeau said. ''I've said this many times -- he's impossible to guard if he has a head of steam and he's coming at you. That's when we get going and there are easy scoring opportunities for everyone in transition.''
The players are starting to see what the coach has been talking about from the start of training camp.
''We can be pretty good,'' Deng said. ''We're deep, and our defense -- we feel like we let up at times [Monday], but when we get that defense down to where we want to get to and stop fouling so much, we're going to be a very good team.''