Derrick Rose is the reigning MVP.
He isn’t going to repeat. This year’s MVP race has LeBron James way out in front of the pack, Kevin Durant in shouting distance of LeBron, and everybody else lagging behind in big group that could be labled “We Have No Chance.”
Rose sure looked like the MVP last night though.
The 76ers rank first in the league in Defensive Rating. But Rose — still upset about his team’s 98-82 loss in Philadelphia back on February 1 — shredded Philly’s D with a season-high-tying 35 points and a game-high 8 assists.
Despite a trapping defense that was looking to get the ball out of his hands.
Said Loul Deng: “Derrick was great. They tried different things to try and stop him and he kept coming up big and making big plays.”
He sure did.
Rose shot 12-for-23 from the field, 4-for-7 on threes, and 7-for-9 from the free throw line. He exploded out of the gate with 13 points in the first quarter and 20 in the second half. He drilled buzzer-beating shots at the end of the second and third quarters. He also hit the games biggest shot…a one-handed baseline floater that gave the Bulls 93-89 lead with 20.2 seconds left.
And that last shot? On a scale of 1 to 10, it had a degree of difficulty of “ridiculous.”
The performance wasn’t exactly a surprise. Rose wants to win every game the way a shark likes to devour chum. He holds grudges after every loss. Especially when the team loses big or gets embarrassed. That last trip to Philly embarrassed Rose. As ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell pointed out, Derrick could barely force himself to watch the film of that loss.
Said Rose: “I was just excited to play them again. I remember playing them here a little while ago and they got the best of us. They’re a good team and I just couldn’t wait to play them again.”
In case you don’t have a Rose-to-English translator, that’s his very nice way of saying he was mad as hell and wanted to kick some Sixer butt. Big time.
Of course, MVP doesn’t mean “one-man team.” As always, Rose got by with help from his friends. Joakim Noah ripped down a season-high 18 rebounds to go with his 11 points and 4 assists. Carlos Boozer added 13 points (6-for-12) and 7 boards. Rip Hamilton (8 points, 4-for-6, +9) had a productive 19 minutes. And C.J. Watson scored 7 of his 9 points in the fourth quarter despite spraining his ankle in the second.
Then there was Deng, who hadn’t netted a field goal all game before converting back-to-back three-point attempts at the 10:27 and 9:38 marks in the fourth quarter.
Let’s not forget the defense.
Chicago’s D held Philly’s O to 39 percent shooting and forced them into 10 misses in 11 three-point attempts.
Unfortunately, the Bulls surrendered 18 fast break points, gave up 18 offensive rebounds, and lost the turnover battle 14-6. Three of those TOs came in the final three minutes as the Sixers were making a run. What’s more, the Bulls again came up shooting blanks from midrange, going 3-for-12 from 10-15 feet and 10-for-29 from 16-23 feet.
So, as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau would no doubt say, there’s still room for improvement.
That said, the Bulls have one six in a row and 13 of their last 15 games. They have road wins over the Spurs and Sixers in their last three games. And, hey lookit, they’re sitting alone on top of the Eastern Conference thanks to Miami’s back-to-back losses in Utah and L.A.
Oh, and tonight they get another crack at the Pacers, one of only two teams to beat the Bulls in Chicago this season. And a team that irked Rose by celebrating after said victory.
Said Rose: “I haven’t forgotten about anything. I remember that. They’re a good team. I know they’re definitely going to be ready. I know we’re going to be ready. And it should be an exciting game.”
Rose-to-English translation: “I am going to rain fire on those guys.”
Countered Noah: “Derrick gets hype off people celebrating. When people talk about celebration I just feel like, ‘You’re not going to out-celebrate me.’ Roy Hibbert cannot out-celebrate me. So if they want to see some celebration when we win, I can show them some celebration … I know how to celebrate.”
Let’s hope we get to see Jo’s famous victory dance. That should be fun.