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Derrick Rose is the Mariano Rivera of basketball.
With 2:55 left and the Bulls trailing by four, the Bradley Center began orbiting around Rose as he took Chicago on a game-ending 12-0 run, scoring eight points and assisting on the other four on his way to a career-high 17 assists. Rose scored or assisted the Bulls final 16 points in a performance that could very well cement his first MVP award. In his third season. At 22 years old.
Wow. Speaking of which, here's Rose's assist of the year, which happened in the third quarter.
Many consider the MVP conversation a done deal at this point with Rose the winner, but a performance like tonight has to give even the dissenters food for thought. Shooting percentages and turnovers indeed, but Rose took over the game as few ever can and even fewer actually do. And if he has decided to make being the league's next closer his "thing", the Bulls are going to win a lot of basketball games.
Chicago played bored basketball for two and a half quarters, while for the second night in a row they faced a team fighting for its playoff life. Bucks John Salmons and Carlos Delfino each scored 13 first-half points against a sluggish Chicago defense that had Tom Thibodeau pulling his remaining hair out. Rose, despite an off-night from behind the arc, buoyed Chicago in the first half while Boozer and Noah struggled to score.
Down by 15 in the third quarter, Rose began attacking the paint and finding his bigs for easy baskets. After having more turnovers than points in the first half (3-2), Boozer notched 12 points and seven rebounds, finishing with 14 and 11. Noah also had his first double double in more than two weeks with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Rose had seven assists in the third quarter and 11 in the second half.
In the second night of a back-to-back, Luol Deng appeared wiped out after halftime, scoring only one point. But he played his usual All-NBA defense, and when the defense turned the screws collectively in the fourth quarter, Milwaukee had no answer.
This is a game Chicago could have lost, maybe should have lost. But when Thibodeau's' defense starts humming and Derrick Rose does his closer thing, there's not a game the Bulls are ever out of.
The MVP performance continued in the locker room as K.C. Johnson reported Derrick's feelings after the game. Get ready to swoon.
DRose on his accomplishments: "I didn't do sh-t yet. We're a team that gets in the first round and loses. We're trying to get past that."
Rose's final line: 30 points, 12-12 from the line, 17 assists, three rebounds and one perfect swish quote.
in the fourth quarter, Noah was fouled hard by Jon Brockman and got up holding his surgically-repaired right thumb. He was seen icing it after the game, but said he hit it on the rim and that it would be okay. If true, that is a giant dodged bullet for Chicago.
The Bulls sweep the Bucks for the first time since 2006-07. As Boston and Miami were idle Saturday, Chicago now leads the East by 2.5 games with ten remaining. With the Bulls playing the way they are right now, home court advantage in the Eastern Conference seems like a very real possibility. When Derrick Rose is wearing your team's jersey, pretty much anything seems possible.
Were I David Stern, I would change regular season awards from something as ambiguous as a media-voted MVP award to something clearer, like a Closer of the Year award as decided by media, coaches and players. It would be more tangible and more fun to argue with your friends. I would also change the awards from trophies to belts, because that would be inarguably awesome. An iced-out championship belt? Please.
In my NBA, tonight in Milwaukee Rose would have clinched the Michael Jeffrey Jordan Closer of the Year belt, taking it from last year's winner Kobe Bryant, who would have to present it at year's end like a Master's champion puts on the next winner's green jacket.
In my NBA.
With 53 wins and ten games left, if the Bulls somehow ran the table they would actually finish with a better record than the 1997-98 team's 62 wins. The Bulls get an off day tomorrow before welcoming Doug Collins' fast break 76ers to town on Monday night.
Follow Zachary Lee on Twitter @rightfieldsucks
about 2 years ago Update 0 comments
Winners of 11 of 12 and coming off of a hard-fought victory at home against the Grizzlies, the Chicago Bulls head north on I-94 to face their neighbor and Central Division rival Milwaukee Bucks. With the Celtics' first home loss of the season to an Eastern Conference opponent, the Bulls now enjoy a two-game lead in the race for home court advantage in the East.
The Bucks are chasing the final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, winning four of five games to pull within two games of the Pacers. Milwaukee had designs on a much higher seed this season, but regression from key players and free agents that haven't fit in as well as hoped have hurt the Bucks' growth. That, and the fact that they are the NBA's worst offensive team, ranking last in scoring, assists and field goal percentage.
When last they played, the Bulls held the Bucks to their lowest point total at home this season in an 83-75 win, a game that was never really in doubt and seemed more like it was played at the United Center North than the Bradley Center. A victory Saturday would be the Bulls first sweep of their northern neighbor since the 2006-2007 season.
Bucks To Watch For
Brandon Jennings seems to have a few games a year where he absolutely goes off, and lucky for the Bulls he logged it last night against the Knicks, scoring 37 points and hitting over 50% of his shots. Andrew Bogut continued his steady improvement this season from last year's horrific arm injury, scoring 21 points and 17 rebounds. Strange things are afoot in Scott Skiles' rotation, as expected contributors Corey Maggette, Earl Boykins, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Drew Gooden combined for 2:24 of court time against the Knicks. Lately it has been the inspired play of Carlos Delfino that has helped the Bucks notch a few key W's as they push to make the NBA's second season.
Bulls To Watch For
The Bulls need their starting frontcourt tandem of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer to find a rhythm, as coach Tom Thibodeau alluded to after last night's game. Boozer especially, as he has continued to struggle post-ankle injury as he had before it. To be effective, Boozer needs to get the ball in his comfortable spots on the court (left block, free throw line, right baseline), and it is up to the league-favorite for MVP to deliver the ball when Boozer is there. Noah simply has not looked for his offense since returning from thumb surgery, a product of the Bulls finding solid scoring elsewhere in his absence and Noah not feeling entirely comfortable with his shot yet. However it shakes out, the Bulls need their starting duo to find some on-court chemistry as the playoffs draw near.