MILWAUKEE Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls' point guard, is the reigning Most Valuable Player in the National Basketball Association.
Brandon Jennings, Rose's counterpart on the Milwaukee Bucks, would very much like to get to that level someday.
If Saturday night was any indication, Jennings has a lot of ground to cover.
Before the game, Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles warned about Rose's abilities.
"They're a good screening team and they run a ton for him," Skiles said. "All he needs is half a body to get around his guy. Other people have to step up, make him change direction or spin. ... If he's attacking the front of the rim, they're almost always going to win. At least try to make him play horizontally instead of vertically; you at least have a chance."
Skiles' words were prophetic.
Running off screens, shooting face-up jumpers and just putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket, Rose put on a clinic, scoring 16 points in the first quarter as the Bulls built a 16-point lead after one period and a 24-point lead at halftime. They rolled their way to a 113-90 victory in front of 18,717 fans at the Bradley Center, most of them wearing Bulls colors and chanting "M-V-P" every step of the way.
"I was taking what they were giving me," Rose said. "They were giving me my shot, and I was taking it. Thank God tonight it was going in."
Rose hit seven of his first 11 shots, including three three-pointers, not missing until there was 3:56 left in the first half. His performance left little doubt that he's still the premier point guard in the Eastern Conference and quite likely all of the NBA.
"He did everything out there," Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He made the game simple. ... He made plays."
Rose finished his night with a game-high 26 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in 35 minutes. In 14 career games against Milwaukee, he is averaging 20.9 points, 8.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds.
"It was kind of a lay-up drill for him for a good portion of the game," Skiles said. "Rose had his way out there. The guy is an MVP-type player. It takes a total team effort to stop him, and we weren't able to."
Jennings, meanwhile, saw limited action (10 minutes) in the first half after picking up two fouls in the first 6 minutes. He was held scoreless until 6:11 remained in the third quarter - finally hitting a 15-footer from the baseline to make it 77-53 -- and finished the game with just eight points on 4-for-10 shooting and five assists in 22 minutes.
"(Rose) wasn't missing in the beginning," Jennings said. "They are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. They just seemed to have kept it going the whole first half and it just seemed like we couldn't stop them at all."
Getting Jennings out of the game early helped the Bulls pull ahead big. Losing Jennings, who had scored 20 or more points in nine of the last 10 games (averaging 23.9 during that stretch), changes the way the Bucks - also playing without big man Andrew Bogut - operate.
Skiles turned to reserves Beno Udrih and Shaun Livingston to fill in, but neither player has the speed or ability to take over a game like Jennings.
"He's such a tough cover," Thibodeau said. "He can get rolling really fast on you. We were fortunate he got into foul trouble. That slowed them down early."
Saturday was a stark contrast from the last meeting of the two teams, a 107-100 Bulls victory in Chicago on Jan. 27. In that game, Jennings and Rose scored 59 points combined.
"Derrick remembers things," said Rose's teammate, guard Kyle Korver. "Last time we played Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings really went at him in the first quarter. Derrick really wanted to attack."
The Bulls have plenty of talent, especially now that small forward Luol Dang is back in the lineup and showing few lingering issues from a wrist injury. But for all the good players Thibodeau has at his disposal, Skiles sees nobody more important than Rose.
"They have a guy that's at the top of the league, the best at his position," Skiles said. "He is truly a great player."
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