Shooting just six-for-22 and his team down one with 10 seconds remaining, no one would’ve blamed Derrick Rose for shying away from taking another chance at putting his team over the top, especially having turned the ball over twice in the previous two possessions. But passing up such an opportunity never entered his mind.
Thibodeau ran an out-of-bounds play that had three options, but there was truly only one for #1. Luol Deng inbounded the ball to Jimmy Butler, who got it to Rose. The point guard then circled the right side of the floor before driving baseline, getting to his spot, planting and releasing a floater over the outstretched arms of Tyson Chandler and a contesting Raymond Felton that proved to be the game-winner as the Bulls held on 82-81.
“We just wanted to get a quality shot with enough time to get a second shot,” coach Tom Thibodeau said afterwards. “Both Carlos and Joakim set screens. Jimmy delivered the ball and Derrick hit a big shot.”
The shot gave Rose a team-high 18 points and saved him from the two critical errors (four turnovers) in the last 90 seconds on a night where he only got to the free throw line twice and battled through a sore neck that forced him to miss the last two days of practice and required him to opt for kinesio taping.
“I missed enough damn shots the whole night,” Rose said. “I’m used to those situations. That’s why I work so hard. And I’m not going to continue missing the shots that I’m missing.”
Deng added 17 points and Boozer contributed 14. Noah pulled down 15 rebounds and handed out five assists as the Bulls outscored the Knicks 46-24 in points in the paint.
But all anyone could talk about was Rose afterwards and how good it is seeing him return to the role of closer.
“For Derrick’s homecoming, for him to hit the game-winner, I know it’s special for him but it’s special for us too,” Noah said. “It’s been a long year and a half and to have him back is huge.”
The Bulls were in control most of the first half despite Rose’s struggling (2-for-11 shooting in the first half). He shook free to start the third, knocking down his only two three-pointers in consecutive fashion.
Up 71-61 entering the fourth, the Bulls couldn’t buy a bucket as the Knicks went on a 12-0 run to take a two-point lead. Rose’s would answer with two free throws at the other end as the teams traded freebies up until Rose’s shot. Anthony had a good look at a 19-footer with five seconds remaining but his shot back-rimmed.
The Knicks outscored the Bulls 20-11 in the final period as Chicago only managed 13 percent shooting from the field.
Anthony led all scorers with 22 points and Tyson Chandler pulled down 19 rebounds and blocked four shots.
“We struggled early in the fourth quarter and we tried to find the rotation and just work through things,” Thibodeau said. “It’s tough when you go into a game and you don’t know who you have. This is all part of it. It’s the start of the season. As long as we are putting everything into each and every day and strive for improvement, it will work out. If we are doing the right things, the results will take care of themselves.”
Putting the ball in Rose’s hands, no matter what he’s shooting, is a start.