- Bradford Doolittle
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CHICAGO -- One of the biggest questions entering the first-round series between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Chicago Bulls was this: What kind of Derrick Rose will we see? The aggressive, attacking Rose, circa 2010 MVP, or the guy who so often defaulted to 3-point shots after multiple knee injuries? If Game 1 was any indication, Rose's response was bad news for the Bucks.
Rose and backcourt-mates Jimmy Butler and Aaron Brooks ripped through the vaunted Bucks defense for 61 points on 21-for-39 shooting Saturday in Chicago's 103-91 victory. Rose was often spectacular while dominating his matchup with Bucks point guard Micheal Carter-Williams, knifing through the Milwaukee defense for layups in the first half, then going on a 3-point spree in the second. Were the Bucks surprised by Rose's turn-back-the-clock performance?
"Yes and no," Bucks center Zaza Pachulia said before practice Sunday. "You're surprised because of all his injuries and because he really just came back. But you're not surprised because he's very capable of playing like that. He's one of the best players we have in the league."
Rose's three 3s during an 11-point third quarter fueled a Bulls burst that extended a lead Milwaukee had trimmed to three points early in the period. But according to Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd, the Bucks' defense laid the foundation for that streak by allowing Rose entry into the paint during the first half.
"He had a great Game 1," Kidd said of Rose. "He came out very aggressive, getting the ball in the paint and finishing. Then in the second half, he knocked down some jump shots. He had a heck of a game.
"You can't give a star player like that easy layups and [let him] get going confidence-wise, and we did that last night."
Rose and Butler led a precision attacking offense for Chicago that thwarted the Bucks' aggressive helping scheme. It didn't help that the Bulls caught fire from the perimeter, hitting 12 3s in the contest.
"Our rotations weren't there," Carter-Williams said. "We just have to clean that up and be better defensively. I think we have to take care of the paint first. You take care of the paint, then contest."
While Rose was playing in his first postseason game in three years, Carter-Williams was playing his first NBA playoff game ever. He and the Bucks' six other postseason first-timers quickly learned that what the Milwaukee veterans had been telling them all week was true: Playoff basketball is a whole different animal.
"The intensity was definitely higher," Carter-Williams said. "Their crowd was really good. It's a tough place to play in. But that's the NBA and the playoffs. Now I'm just looking to fix my mistakes and am looking forward to Game 2."
There are two phrases that serve as connective tissue in pretty much all narratives about playoff hoops: making adjustments, and fixing mistakes. The Bucks -- all of them now -- have some experience under their collective belt, but figuring out how to channel that into an improved performance is the real trick.
"You're going to make some adjustments," Pachulia said. "Play with more energy. We're built with helping each other [on defense] all season long. We'll have to play better with loading and helping with their guards.
"Second game, you already have playoff experience. So we should be playing with more confidence. That's going to be big for us."
The problem for the Bucks could be that if Rose continues to sparkle like he did Saturday, there aren't really any adjustments that will make much of a difference. So for Carter-Williams, the plan has to remain simple.
"We just have to keep him in front, keep throwing those late contests," Carter-Williams said. "If he knocks them down, we just have to shake his hand."
Vintage Derrick Rose showed up for the Bulls in their Game 1 victory. If he sticks around, it spells trouble for the Bucks.