This was a mouthwash game.
As in: The Bulls needed to get the bad taste of Sunday’s loss to Miami out of there mouths.
Especially Derrick Rose.
As everyone in the free world already knows, D-Rose missed a couple free throws that could have won that game, and then a jumper that could have tied it.
Rose takes losses really hard. He blames himself for every one of them, even when he’s utterly blameless. Against the Heat — Chicago’s biggest rival in the East and, really, in the entire league — Rose failed in a very visable and entirely blameable way. Afterward, he said he not only let his teammates down…he let down the city of Chicago as well.
I’m betting Rose will be seeing those missed free throws in his dreams for weeks.
Maybe until the Bulls manage to beat the Heat in the NBA playoffs.
In the meantime, Rose had the chance to take his frustration out on the Wizards. Before the game, Rose vowed to go wild. And did he ever. During the first 12 minutes of the game, Rose converted an array of high-difficulty shots en route to 13 first quarter points. He added another 15 in the third quarter as the Bulls broke the game open.
Rose ended up leading the team in points (a season-high 35), assists (a game-high 8), blocked shots (a co-game-high 3), and steals (a co-game-high 2). He also went 14-for-15 from the free throw line. In contrast, the Wizards went 11-for-13 as a team.
Said Rose: “I just played my game — and that’s me being aggressive.”
Yes. Aggressive. He certainly was that.
It was recognized by Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, who said: “He comes out like it’s his will. He imposes his will on everybody.”
It was recognized by Washington players like Trevor Booker, who said: “Sometimes I caught myself spectating. Some of those shots were unbelievable.”
It was recognized by the Verizon Center’s largest crowd of the season (18,357), who chanted “M-V-P!” as Rose dismantled the home team.
This man is special.
It’s just heart, you know? He loves the city. He loves the game. He loves his teammates. He is deadly serious about being a leader, about shouldering responsibility, about winning. It’s not an act. Not something he’s doing for the cameras. He doesn’t transform into somebody else when the tape recorders have been turned off.
Unlike many people, I don’t blame LeBron James for leaving Cleveland for better teammates and a better opportunity in Miami. Not one bit. But I also recognize that’s something Rose would probably never do. Some uninformed observers think Rose appears emotionless on the court. I disagree. He wears his heart on his sleave. He lives, bleeds and dies for the Chicago Bulls.
That quality is not something you see in many superstars these days.
Rose is just…different. That’s not meant to be a value judgement. I didn’t say better necessarily. Just different.
Which is great for the Bulls.
As for the game, it was mostly footnote to Rose’s desire for redemption against the Heat. Luol Deng (wrist) and Rip Hamilton (groin) missed the game, which meant starting nods for Kyle Korver (17 points, 5 three-pointers, and a game-high plus-minus of +17) and Ronnie Brewer (6 points, 6 rebounds, +12). Carlos Boozer’s “On Again, Off Again” switch got flipped back to the “On Again” position as he contributed 18 points (9-for-16) and 8 rebounds. Joakim Noah added 14 points, 12 boards, and a career-best-tying 7 assists.
The Bench Mob was quiet (8 points, 2-for-12, 8 rebounds, 3 assists), but they were missing Brewer and Korver. Washington won the rebounding battle (44-40) while outscoring the Bulls 50-32 in the paint. And Chicago gave up 24 points off 19 turnovers.
So it wasn’t all violins and, you know, Roses.
But it was an easy win the day after the team’s toughest loss of the season. And considering the Bulls are only two games in to a nine-game road trip, every win is crucial. Especially with back-to-back games in Philly and New York on Wednesday and Thursday.
Let’s hope D-Rose is still fuming about those missed free throws for the rest of the week…