Rose Strikes Back With Vengeance
Bulls point guard goes ‘crazy’ in bounce-back win over Wizards.
by Scott Gleeson | @ScottMGleeson
With two missed free throws still fresh in his head, Rose didn’t downplay the significance of Sunday’s emotional 97-93 loss to the Heat.
“If anything, I’m just hurt. Not only for me, but for the city of Chicago,” Rose said. “Knowing how big that game was, not only to me but to the organization, to our fans all over. That’s a rivalry. You have your best player have an opportunity to take the lead, and I didn’t come through.
“Losing to them in the Playoffs, of course with that history, we definitely wanted to win…We put ourselves in a position to win, and, I just didn’t come through. I think if I would have hit those free throws, it would have changed the game. It didn’t work out that way.”
Rose promised not to let the Chicago faithful down again, and Monday took his aggression out in the nation’s capital.
Asked before the game whether it would be hard to adjust moving forward to the next game against the bottom-of-the-League Wizards, Rose was quick to reply with, “Hell no.”
“It just makes me hungry,” he said. “Where tonight (pauses). …I’m gonna try to go crazy.”
“He set the tone for us. I think he’s feeling a lot better,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “When he comes out like that, it’s his will. He imposes his will on everybody and he made us very aggressive.
“He got to the line 15 times. He’s in the paint making plays. He’s playing really good defense, running the team.”
Said Rose’s counterpart, Wizards point guard John Wall: “He did a great job in getting them into their pick and roll. He got the ball to their big men and was also able to get to the free-throw line and hit his shots. He made big plays all night.”
Connecting on mid-range jumpers and dishing to teammates like always, it was Rose’s Allen Iverson-like floater that proved to be the most effective against Washington.
“First and foremost, he is an outstanding player,” Wizards newly appointed head coach Randy Wittman said. “He made tough shots. There was nothing you could do. When he made shots over our big men with his runner, he leaves you no choice but to try different things. He also creates a lot of plays for his teammates.”
Not many were surprised of Rose’s resurgent effort, especially Bulls center Joakim Noah.
“He came up big as usual. We’re not worried about this guy,” said Noah, who had 14 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists. “He is the ultimate competitor and he came to play tonight. He always does. We win and lose by that guy, and most of the time we are going to win.”
While most players take losing hard, particularly against a team that ended the Bulls season last year in the Eastern Conference finals, Rose feels multiple forms of pain following a tough loss.
Born and raised in Chicago, Rose knows the weight of his team and the city is often on his shoulders and he’s cognizant of how far the franchise has come since the post-Michael Jordan years of mediocrity.
“I wouldn’t say [it’s] a burden, but I like seeing my city happy,” Rose said. “Especially if I’m one of the reasons why. I know what we went through after Mike left and all the years that people didn’t really watch the Bulls. For people to start watching the Bulls and for our organization to get the fans back, it means a lot.”
Rose said after the game that the last time he remembers falling through in the clutch like he did Sunday would have been in college—at Memphis in the NCAA Championship game against Kansas when Rose missed a critical free throw in the second half and the Jayhawks won in overtime.
“Never thought in a million years that I would miss both free throws,” Rose said of his missed free throws against the Heat.
Although it’s difficult to draw a positive from a negative, Rose is doing exactly that. He’s moved on from the painful loss to the Heat, but by no means is he forgetting it. He’s letting it fuel him, taking a what-doesn’t-kill-you-makes-you-stronger approach.
“I know if I’m in that position again, it’ll be a totally different outcome,” Rose said. “I think God does everything for a reason. It made me stronger as a player.”
At 18-5, Chicago holds the best record in the East. With championship expectations, moving forward and focusing on the future is vital for the Bulls.
“We talked about how much we put into [the Heat] game and to come up short was disappointing, but we talked about the carry-over,” Carlos Boozer said. “A Championship team will be able to dust off that game and be ready.”
After missing games with an early-season injury, the reigning MVP believes he’s starting to get fully healthy and comfortable.
“I don’t feel it anymore,” Rose said of his turf toe. “My toe is alright, I’ve been getting treatment on it. My biggest thing now is getting rest, proper sleep.”
The Bulls have been plagued by injuries to starters Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton, but Rose knows that’s expected in a jam-packed 66-game season.
“In the NBA, there’s no excuses, no matter who’s playing, who’s out, who’s injured,” he said. “We’re playing well. We’re down a couple players. We definitely miss them. You still have to go out and play these games. We’re just playing team basketball.”
Rose has made it clear he doesn’t like to lose, expressing frustration from an Indiana Pacers celebration earlier this season. His will to win has never been in question. Rose was sincere, though, that he didn’t want his legacy to be in question either.
“When I think of my legacy, I want people to think of me as being a clutch player, someone that always came through a majority of the time on the court,” Rose said. “That’s something I live for.”