The Chicago Bulls were able to handle business against the visiting Miami Heat last night, and they did it largely without Derrick Rose.
The reigning MVP was awful — coming off an ankle injury, Rose only mustered a career-low two points on 1/13 shooting from the field — and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau decided it was in the best interest of the team if Derrick sat on the bench at crunchtime.
Thibodeau was proven correct, as Derrick Rose’s backup C.J. Watson — who forced overtime with a three — was able to help lead Chicago to the big win. Following the game, Rose said he had absolutely no issue with the benching.
“I’m fine, man,” Rose said. “Anything to win. Where he felt that lineup was going to win the game, it won the game, and I can’t complain about anything.” Thibodeau decided to ride the hot hand of Rose’s backup, C.J. Watson, down the stretch. Watson scored 16 points along with nine assists and hit a three-pointer with 2.2 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
Thibodeau admitted it was a little strange benching the reigning MVP. “It’s a great question,” Thibodeau said. “Big picture, in terms of, if this were his first or second year, maybe you would be more concerned with that. But where Derrick is now as a player, he knows, he understands the situation. He’s coming off an injury, he’s a very confident guy. He’ll get up to speed very quickly. The thing that you love about him, he was so happy we won, and so happy for his teammates, and that’s who Derrick is.” [...] “It’s the same, where I’m just trying to get my rhythm back,” Rose said, “I had worse games than this. I’m just happy that we got the win; that’s the only thing that matters to me.” Joakim Noah praised the way Rose handled the situation. “No, there’s nothing to be upset about,” Noah said. “When your leader is a team-first guy, it trickles down to everybody. It shows what kind of character he has. We’re trying to win here. It was a great team effort.”
Derrick Rose says that his ankle feels good, and that it’s only a matter of time until the rust from missing so many games this season (23) goes away. One can probably assume that there aren’t too many more late-game benchings in his future.