The Highs and Lows of Derrick Rose: Playoff Edition

Derrick Rose has experienced a sharp drop in performance during the playoffs. Why has that happened?

To say Derrick Rose has had an up-and-down season would be an understatement.

To his credit, the point guard has battled through injuries and shooting slumps to give us all a flash from the past when he was a superstar and the 2011 NBA MVP. For the Bulls, Rose is key to their championship hopes, and nothing has been more evident during this postseason.

Let’s break down the highs and lows of Rose in these playoffs to take a closer look at how he has regained his high level of play.

Triumphant Return

Much has been made of D-Rose’s first appearance in a playoff game in over three years. Rightfully so, as he was coming off the third serious knee injury of his career, this one limiting him to 51 games during the season and only eight since the All-Star Break. No one expected Rose to repeat his career postseason numbers or even come close. After all, he averaged over 25 points and 7 assists while posting a 104 Offensive Rating in 29 career playoff games entering this postseason.

Answering all the doubters, Rose came out on fire. In Game 1, the point guard torched the Bucks for 23 points and 7 assists while posting a True Shooting Percentage of 68.1 and a Net Rating of 23. Net Rating is the difference between a player's Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating. He had the look of being back in his glory days.

Rose did not disappoint in the next two games, either, as he helped the Bulls win and stretch their series lead to a commanding 3-0 margin. During those first three games, Rose was the talk of the NBA. He had regained the fearlessness and explosive drive from his MVP days and the Bulls were looking like legitimate threats in the East. But then came Games 4 and 5.

Crushing Defeats

In the Bulls’ two losses to the Bucks, Rose has not just been bad -- he has singlehandedly cost his team victories. With the score tied at 90 in Game 4, Rose committed his eighth turnover of the game with only seconds remaining. Then on defense, Rose lost his man, Jerryd Bayless, under the basket on an inbound play. The Bucks guard got free to shoot an uncontested layup for the victory.

In Game 5, Rose not only struggled on offense (5-for-20 shooting including 0-for-7 from three with six turnovers), but Michael Carter-Williams had his way with Rose throughout the night. MCW was 10-for-15 for a team-high 22 points and 123 Offensive Rating with Rose as his primary defender.

Rose’s ups and downs are obvious when looking at his splits between Games 1 and 3 and Games 4 and 5.

SplitsPointsFG%TS%AssistsTOOff. RatingDef. Rating
Games 1-324.047.2%61.3%8.03.312097
Games 4-513.530.3%37.9%4.07.065104

As the numbers above show, Rose has been struggling on all fronts the last two games. A slight increase in Defensive Rating would be expected, as Bucks coach Jason Kidd figured out the best way to attack Rose’s defense. The 55-point drop in Offensive Rating and the difference of 23.4 percent in True Shooting Percentage speaks to something else altogether.

Why the Decline?

Part of the blame for his drop in scoring and shooting goes to his struggles from behind the arc. In the first three games, Rose made 10-of-22 shots from three-point land. In Games 4 and 5, he struggled and hit 18% of his attempts, including going 0-for-7 in Game 5. Maybe an understandable lack of endurance is at play here. He is, of course, three months out from having knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

To that point, in Game 1, Rose only played 27 minutes -- a good idea for someone who had only been back on the court for fewer than two weeks and had only played 101 minutes total the last five games of the season. In Games 2 and 3, in typical coach Tom Thibodeau fashion, Rose was on the court for more than 86 minutes.

In Games 4 and 5, Rose played an average of 41 minutes per game. In the regular season, Rose only played an average of 30.0 minutes per game. Those extended minutes coupled with Milwaukee’s tight defense could explain the extreme splits.

All season long, Rose was never asked to be the savior. He was merely the third scoring option in Chicago behind Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol. In the regular season, Rose put up a steady 17.7 points, 40.5% shooting, 4.9 assists, and 3.2 turnovers per game.

Those were not flashy numbers, but the Bulls won 65% of the games in which he played. If Rose is not worn down, he can obviously provide scoring in spurts, help distribute the basketball, and keep the Bulls’ offense dynamic and efficient.

Heading into Game 6, if the Bulls are to advance, they need Rose to have his legs and be consistent.

While it was nice to see vintage Rose during the first three games, the Bulls do not need him to be the 2011-era Rose to move on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.