CHICAGO -- Two field goals.
That's all the Chicago Bulls managed in the fourth quarter of Thursday night's 82-81 victory over the New York Knicks. That fact that Tom Thibodeau's team was able to squeak out a win after scoring just two baskets in the fourth quarter should make the veteran coach actually feel better.
The Bulls snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat, and surely Thibodeau knows it.
Derrick Rose's running floater with 5.7 seconds left will make most fans forget the fact that for the second consecutive game the Bulls' offense has looked lethargic -- but it shouldn't. After dominating throughout much of the preseason, the new wrinkles to Chicago's read-and-react offense appear to have been lost in translation.
"We know that we have to get better," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "In a better rhythm offensively, and it's going to happen. I think we missed a lot of shots that we're going to make later on in the year. I think familiarity -- just knowing what we're trying to get out of the offense -- even though I've played with Derrick for a while, played with [Carlos Boozer] for a while, played with [Luol Deng] for a while, adding Jimmy [Butler] ... I think just playing together, our starting unit, and playing with the bench guys, I think that just playing together and jelling and trying to figure out exactly what we're trying to get offensively, usually you do that in the preseason -- I wasn't able to play in the preseason."
Thursday marked only the second time the starting five of Rose, Noah, Boozer, Deng and Butler played together -- and it showed. After a quick start where the ball moved around the floor and the Bulls were able to get some quick shots, the offense went stagnant again. Everybody had a different explantation as to why baskets were so difficult to come by.
"I think we just need to know our spacing," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "Know our timing. Our timing is a bit off, you look at how we were bunched up sometimes. We just got to keep working at it. Nobody's going to be perfect right away. Everybody's going to have their struggles -- it's a long season, but I'd rather us have our stuff together late in the year, especially knowing how many guys can get injured and stuff."
While nobody wants to blame Rose, especially after he knocked down the game-winner, it looks as if the former MVP is pressing a little too much while trying to get his game back in rhythm. Shots he was draining in the preseason aren't going down and his teammates aren't getting as many looks because of it. Still, the Bulls know that it's only a matter of time before Rose rediscovers his groove.
"I don't think he's trying to do too much," Boozer said. "I think he's being aggressive like he always is. I don't think he's getting the calls that he obviously got in the preseason, so that's a little frustrating for him and for us, but I like what he's doing. Obviously, every team that we play against, their whole defensive plan is going to be to stop Derrick. You guys know that, we know that too, and he's navigating his way through it."
Boozer and the rest of his teammates are appreciative of the fact that Rose has handled everything that has come his way. They know it's going to take some time for the 25-year-old to feel comfortable again on the floor, and they are more than happy to give him all the time that he needs.
"The kid has a lot of pressure on him but he carries it," Boozer said. "He carries it very well. Tonight he was going through a tough night and he still hit the shot that won the game for us. So for me, I'm proud of him, man. I look at this as a positive step in the right direction -- and we won on top of that. We'll keep growing. This is a journey. We got a long way ahead of us and we're excited for where we're at right now, but we'll be better and better."
For his part, Rose also doesn't sound very concerned -- despite the fact that he is now 11-for-38 over his first two games.
"I think just jelling," Rose said. "Us playing these games is just going to help us build our team chemistry. We can't get down on ourselves, we know that we can do something special so we just got to keep things going and working hard every day."