CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose started a new year the way he ended the last one: by missing a bunch of shots.
Apparently, his resolution was to keep on keeping on.
As Rose is always quick say, and then back up, he’ll keep shooting and shooting and, eventually, good things will happen.
After missing all seven of his shots in the first half and 12 of 14 through three quarters Thursday, Rose heated up in the fourth, scoring 13 of his 17 points to close out Denver 106-101.
Jimmy Butler had a game-high 26 points to go with eight assists and eight rebounds, while Pau Gasol had 17 points, nine rebounds and a career-high nine blocked shots.
But when it came to crunch time, it was all about the big-name star, Rose.
Rose went 7-for-25 from the field in the game, but he hit 5 of 11 shots and two free throws in the fourth. He got to the rim, hit his floaters, made a 3-pointer and a key step-back jumper. Three of his fourth-quarter misses went for putback baskets for Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.
“My mentality is not going to change,” Rose said. “I’m going to shoot the ball. I’m a scoring guard.”
With Jay Cutler on vacation, Rose is the most analyzed athlete still playing in Chicago, and there’s no close second.
At times, the level of scrutiny to the microparts of his games leans toward the absurd. Other times, it’s perfectly valid. All part of playing the starring role for a championship contender in a major market.
“Everybody questions everything here,” Noah said. “I’ve never questioned him, because I know what kind of competitor he is, and he’s a worker. Everybody has something to say.”
While Rose usually tries to act oblivious to chatter around him, he seemed a little perturbed that people had been questioning his game after just two bad outings in a row (7-for-35 shooting against Indiana and Brooklyn).
“I’m taking whatever they give me,” Rose said. “I’m not going to let anyone dictate the way that I play. If they’re giving me shots, I’m going to take them. Shots that I normally make, I’m going to keep taking them. I could care less what anyone says or talk about my game. They’re giving me shots, I should be able to make those shots.”
Rose’s reliance on 3-pointers has been criticized all season, and rightly so, given the limited results. Facing defenses that are giving him open 3s, he’s shooting 26.4 percent (32-for-121). He went 1-for-3 on 3s against Denver, mostly opting to move the ball when point guard Ty Lawson sagged back to invite a shot.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been telling reporters that Rose needs to drive more and settle less for 3-pointers early in possessions. He liked what he saw on Thursday. It wasn’t just trips to the paint in the fourth, but also the alacrity to get the ball upcourt quicker to get the offense going.
“I want him to be aggressive,” Thibodeau said. “I want him attacking. That’s what got him going in the fourth.”
Rose looked for his midrange game before getting seams to the rim in the fourth. The shots just weren’t falling until then.
“Really, it’s my teammates giving me confidence,” he said. “Even when you’re missing shots like I am the past couple games, teammates are still giving me the ball, giving me confidence, telling me to shoot the ball, still giving me the ball in position to shoot the ball. I’m fortunate. I’m very fortunate.”
Rose missed his first two shots in the fourth -- he got clobbered by Timofey Mozgov on one -- before hitting a floater to give the Bulls an 87-86 lead. On the next trip down, he hit another floater. His next shot, a missed layup, was rebounded and scored by Gibson. That made it 91-86.
A few possessions later, he hit a 3 and then got a steal and made a beautiful no-look pass to Butler (game-high 26 points) for a dunk.
While Noah credited Thibodeau’s decision to let the team run simple pick-and-roll actions in the fourth, allowing Noah and Gibson to hit the offensive glass, Rose’s best play came in an isolation situation with 24 seconds left. He sized up Arron Afflalo in front of the Nuggets bench with a few dribbles, and then hit a perfect step-back jumper to give Chicago a 102-97 lead.
“We have a fourth-quarter set of plays we run, and that was part of it,” Thibodeau said. “He’s got to make the play. There were open seams for him to drive or pull up, and he has the responsibility when the second defender comes to make the right read and the right play.”
Rose stared hard at the Nuggets’ bench after the shot.
“It wasn’t the players,” Rose said. “Players don’t talk to me in the game. It was the coaches. I heard some of the coaches saying something. I was just caught up in the game.”
Were they telling Nuggets defenders to let him shoot?
“It wasn’t that,” Rose said. “They were telling them how to defend me. I just made my shot.”
Rose, apparently, hears everything, and he is listening.