On Friday, Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub revealed: “Rose scares me. … If Derrick Rose can break down the defense either through one-on-one penetration or screen/rolls, I worry that as the C’s big men help, Thomas and Noah will be able to find the right spots on the floor before Davis/Powe/Perkins can get back to them. I also worry about Rose’s ability to finish around the rim. He’s so athletic, and so good at going around big guys standing straight up.”
So, uh, Zach…why didn’t you tell me you had a time machine?
Derrick Rose scored 36 points yesterday, setting a new career-high and tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most points scored by a rookie in a playoff. He shot 12-for-19 from the field and was a perfect 12-for-12 from the line. He had a game-high 11 assists, which made him only the second player in NBA history with 35 points and 10 assists in his playoff debut (Chris Paul had 35 and 10 in his own history-making playoff debut last season). And his Chicago Bulls beat the Boston Celtics — 105-103 in overtime — for the first time in 11 postseason tries. It’s no coincidence.
Rose was flat out awesome. That’s not to say he didn’t make mistakes. He committed a game-high 5 turnovers — including an ill-conceived forced pass with 3:30 left in regulation that led to a Paul Pierce layup, which allowed Boston to regain the lead — and he fouled out with 10 seconds to go in overtime on a pretty cheesy bump foul on Rajon Rondo. But that feels like nitpicking. The kid was unflappable. He never looked panicked or even worried. When he was interviewed at halftime (with the Bulls holding a surprising 9-point lead) and after the game (after Chicago’s even more surprising victory), he wasn’t even breathing hard.
It was amazing. Rose hit some shots that were just redonkulous. Long jumpers with the shot clock winding down, driving layups in the heart of the Celtic defense (including one in which he got fouled right before lofting it up one-handed on the baseline from slightly behind the backboard). In some ways, it was nearly as fantastic as Michael Jordan’s legendary 63-point performance against the C’s back in 1986…or maybe more fantastic, since Rose’s effort resulted in an overtime win instead of a double-overtime loss.
Maybe that’s overstating things, but what Derrick huge. Or as the Beantowners might say, “yuuuuuuuuge.” But in all fairness to D-Rose, he didn’t do it alone. Joakim Noah was a monster. He hit only five of his 12 shot attempts, but he finished with 11 points, 3 blocked shots and a game-high 17 rebounds. To put that in perspective, the Celtics — one of the league’s best rebounding teams — didn’t have a single player reach double figures off the boards. (Pierce, Rondo and Leon Powe were the closest, with 7 rebounds each.) And trust me when I tell you that Joakim’s board work was probably just as critical as Rose’s offense.
(Okay, I’m really, really trying not to hold Joakim’s biggest blunder of the day against him, when he rotated over and fouled Pierce on a long, fall-away jumper with 2.6 seconds left in the fourth. That foul likely would have cost the Bulls the game had Pierce made both free throws. He didn’t, and things turned out okay, but still. Joakim, it’s like Hubie Brown always says: NEVER FOUL A JUMP SHOOTER.)
Then there was Tyrus Thomas, the third member of Chicago’s young core of the future. Ty finished with 16 points (8-for-12), 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. But he was at his best in overtime, when he scored six of the Bulls’ eight points — including the game-winning jumper with 51 seconds left — all on jump shots. Yes, you read that correctly: ALL ON JUMPSHOTS. From 16, 17 and 20 feet, to be exact. I guess all those regular season misses paid off?
I should also mention that Ben Gordon — who might not even be a Bull next season — shook off a slow start to finish with 20 points and a second-best-on-the-team 5 dimes. Moreover, he got hot late, drilling four of his six makes in the fourth quarter on (surprise!) long jumpers (once from 24 feet, twice from 20 and once from 18). His clutch offense forced Doc Rivers to shuffle Ray Allen (4 points on 1-for-12 shooting) like Ray was in the witness protection program.
And while giving out credit where credit is due, I should mention Brad Miller (who went 2-for-11 but grabbed 12 boards) and Kirk Hinrich (whose stats weren’t all that), who were the only Chicago players other than Derrick Rose to finish with a positive plus-minus score (they were +9 each, while Rose was +8). Brad was a key part of 53-45 rebounding edge, and Kirk was a steady presence off the bench, particularly on defense.
I’m not totally sure what to make of this win. It’s big, yeah, but it took a historic performance by Rose to pull out a 2-point overtime win. Can Derrick make history again? And will the Bulls continue to play with the same sort of loose confidence they displayed in Game 1? I mean, it sure seems easier to execute when nobody believes in you and all the pressure is on the other guys. Pierce, for one, thinks this was a wakeup call for the Celtics. And if that’s the case, Game 2 could get ugly.
But if this game proved something to the young Bulls (and the old ones)…it’s that anything’s possible. Right?