With the extended offseason brought on by the lockout, it’s easy to forget what happened last year, it seems so long ago. The Dallas Mavericks hoisted up their championship banner to remind everyone that they won it all and Derrick Rose quickly reminded everyone that he’s the reigning MVP.
The Chicago Bulls point guard came out of the gates blazing against the Los Angeles Lakers, finishing off an amazing game with a game-winning floater that we’ll probably be seeing replays of all season. Rose shot 9 of 13 from the field including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. Not bad for a guy who shot 22% three-pointers his rookie season. Rose just continues to improve, showing he’ll be one of the leaders in this league for a long time to come.
But if you didn’t watch the game because you were enjoying the Christmas holiday, and you’re catching up on the highlights of the first day of the NBA season, what you’re going to see is Rose’s floater with 5 seconds left.
The whole thing started with a steal by Luol Deng as he stepped in front of a Kobe Bryant pass. He dribbled down the court and almost ruined it by jumping before he was ready to pass. He was just barely able get the ball away to Joakim Noah right before his feet hit the ground. Noah got it over to Rose who isolated himself with Derek Fisher with about 10 seconds to go. Rose crossed over Fisher and ended up in the paint, lofting a floater over an outstretched Pau Gasol. The degree of difficulty on the shot was incredible, considering he was fading away from the basket, and who knows how much of the hoop you can even see with the 7-footer standing right in front of you. But the ball dropped through, giving the Bulls a one-point lead, and eventually the game.
The floater capped off an amazing comeback. The Bulls were down 11 with less than 4 minutes to go, and down 6 with a minute left. Those last few minutes were characterized by Laker mistakes, and the Bulls capitalizing on them. The Lakers missed free throws, turned the ball over and made some terrible decisions. This was a game they could have won easily, but even after all that, they did still have a chance to win. Rose’s shot left 4.8 seconds on the clock. Everyone knew where the ball was going. Kobe Bryant took the inbounds pass and drove down the right side of the lane, but his shot was blocked by Deng and the game was over. It was symbolic in a way, to watch Rose win the game while Bryant blew his chance. The younger guy upstaged the veteran on his home turf.
Luol Deng’s effort is something that may get lost in all this drama. He had 21 points, including 6 of 6 from the free throw line, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and that very crucial block at the end. Deng looks like he’s ready to contribute to this team just as much as anyone else.
Even though the Bulls struggled at times during yesterday’s opener, they look like a complete team that’s going to be tough to contend with all year, especially if their MVP keeps stepping it up to a higher level every time he touches the floor.