Saturday’s Game 1 between the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks just didn’t feel right from the start. The United Center crowd was almost dead silent as the Bucks charged to an 8-2 lead in the opening minutes. The Bulls were playing flat and seemingly devout of energy … then Derrick Rose decided to flip the switch.
Rose played with energy, explosion and craftiness that we haven’t seen from the former MVP since his ACL tear. It was as if Rose, in this moment and against this opponent, decided for the first time this season that he was going to take over:
Rose ignited the crowd with this acrobatic layup after splitting through two Bucks for his first points of the contest. From that point on, he was throwback D-Rose.
Rose finished with 23 points and seven assists on 9-of-16 shooting from the field in just 27 minutes in a 103-91 Bulls win in Game 1 of their first-round series against Milwaukee. Rose seldom showed any signs that a performance like this was on the horizon after enduring a tumultuous season, especially after a poor game to close the season against Atlanta.
The 51 games Rose played during the regular season might have been his most since 2011-12, but he never played with any consistency. Rose finished with the lowest field goal percentage (40.5 percent), assists per game (4.9) and PER (15.94) of his career, with flashes of brilliant play mixed in with awful performances.
Rose didn’t even show any improvement as the season progressed, as his field goal percentage declined each month from October through January. He never looked comfortable for long stretches of games, and while the minor knee procedure he underwent played a part in his failure to put together a solid stretch of basketball, that would just be an excuse.
As displayed by his two-point performance in just 10 minutes on Wednesday against the Hawks, Rose sometimes didn’t even play when he was completely healthy. Rose was more or less kept healthy for the regular season so he’d be ready come playoff time. Saturday against the Bucks, Rose showed that he has another gear when the games really matter. And boy, was it a sight to see:
Rose’s night was full of acrobatic and athletic drives like the emphatic dunk shown in the clip above. Rose knifed through the Bucks’ defense with ease as Michael Carter-Williams failed to stay in front of the much quicker player. MCW’s length hardly was a factor when he was constantly getting beat off the dribble at the three-point line, failing to give his teammates enough time to help. Rose especially torched Carter-Williams during the second quarter, finishing with 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the frame, with all of his points coming in the paint. This was the Rose Bulls’ fans have been waiting for, and this was the Rose the rest of the NBA had feared would return.
When the Bucks finally started keeping him out of the paint in the second half, Rose decided to use his jump shot to his advantage. Rose nailed three three-pointers in the third quarter, finding a stroke that had left him all season. (28 percent from downtown this year)
Milwaukee routinely doubled Pau Gasol in the post all night, holding the All-Star to 5-for-17 shooting from the field, but the Bucks left Rose in one-on-one coverage throughout the game. Rose’s 1-for-13 shooting night in his last game against Milwaukee probably played a factor in Jason Kidd’s strategy, but come Game 2, Kidd and the Bucks will surely take Rose much more seriously after what he did on Saturday night. So expect Milwaukee to use different defenders, flash double teams and trap Rose next time out.
Of course, it wasn’t all good for Rose. His four turnovers were a team high, which is saying something considering Chicago turned the ball over 19 times against Milwaukee’s pressure defense. Rose got too excited in transition a couple times and coughed the ball up, and there were still times where he fumbled the ball on occasion for no apparent reason, something that could bite the Bulls when the games are closer in this series or moving forward.
However, Rose’s passing was outstanding for the most part, highlighted by two pin-point fourth-quarter assists on Mike Dunleavy three pointers. His jump pass to set up this Dunleavy corner three-pointer was just ridiculous:
Rose was also helped out by 25 points from his backcourt-mate, Jimmy Butler. Rose and Butler combined for 48 points, giving Chicago a glimpse of what it’s backcourt can look like when healthy. If the duo stays healthy for the duration of this series and produces like this, Milwaukee has no chance.
Welcome back, MVP D-Rose.