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Round goes to Bulls’ Derrick Rose, ailing or not

With game line point guard Derrick Rose stepped up with key scores block Roy Hibbert’s attempted dunk 25 points six

With the game on the line, point guard Derrick Rose stepped up with key scores, a block of Roy Hibbert’s attempted dunk, 25 points and six assists and showed what happens when a superstar takes over. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 26, 2012 6:41PM



Bad-footed Derrick Rose played, and fortunately the only ankles that gave way Tuesday night were those of the stubborn Indiana Pacers.

Take a deep breath, Chicago.

Round 1 is over.

Honest.

The palms were a little sweaty before this game, weren’t they? Can’t blame Bulls followers for being nervous and a tad perplexed. The Pacers were a No. 8 seed, and the Bulls a No. 1, right? So why wasn’t this thing over already?

Indeed, if this 116-89 Game 5 win is how it’s going to go in these playoffs, somebody please find Rose some shoes that never melt, never sag, never fail, maybe never come off.

Because without this brilliant competitor . . . the mind reels.

‘‘I think he looked great,’’ said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. ‘‘I don’t think he had any problem.’’

When Rose picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, with C.J. Watson replacing him, that could have been a problem. You wondered for the thousandth time: what is this team without the normal-sized, home-bred, blank-faced, ferocious ex-Simeon star?

The answer, of course, is, let’s not find out.

Rose came back into the game quickly after that fourth foul, after a brief talk with Thibs — ‘‘I told him I wouldn’t foul anymore,’’ Rose promised — and almost instantly hit a three-point shot to widen the lead to nine points.

And moments after that — and this was crazy — he nullified Pacers center Roy Hibberts’ attempted dunk from under the basket.
Hibbert is 7-2. Rose is Superman.

Then Rose quickly nailed another three-pointer — and another — and the game was over. Rout on.

It was sick and scary what Rose did. So quick. Like somebody knifing a dude and having the dagger back in his sock before the guy even knows he’s dead.

Consider: What if Rose’s crazy block on a man a foot taller than he had been a foul?

But it wasn’t.

Because at some point a great player has to know how to play with jeopardy hanging over him like a piano on a wire.

With mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel courtside and Jesse Jackson sitting on the baseline, waving a rose around his head as the Luv-a-Bulls danced like a red-sequined harem in front of him, the crazed United Center rocked with good vibes.

That’s what Rose does to you.

How good is this guy?

Hearing the ‘‘MVP!’’ chant every time he does something sweet is now the norm — even on the road.

He could have had his head torn off by the aggressive and wild-eyed Tyler Hansbrough on a breakaway drive after a steal — and it seemed that was Hansbrough’s desire — but Rose shrugged off the ensuing foul and simply continued his business.

Even the spirited chants of ‘‘Foster sucks!’’ meant nothing to him. Those were directed at hard-working, hard-hacking Pacers center Jeff Foster, and occasionally were replaced by ‘‘Hansbrough sucks!’’

Finally, the Pacers’ Josh McRoberts threw a right forearm at Bulls center Joakim Noah after Noah had swatted him in the face with a flailing hand, after, well after a lot of stuff had gone on between the teams.

The ensuing technical foul got McRoberts tossed, a move that was going to happen to somebody in this slap-fest ratcheting its way toward a total throw-down brawl.

It seemed for a while it would be Noah himself.

The tall guy with the old-lady bun behind his head was so jacked at the start he would have made a hamster on crank seem stable.

Noah had a terrific game — 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists, 8-for-9 from the free-throw line with his ungodly ‘‘tornado’’ shot.

But above all, he was active. Maybe even hyperactive. When he saw the Jumbotron showing his dredlocked grandfather Zacharie Noah in the crowd, he stood up and applauded the center court machine.

That power forward Carlos Boozer left in a walking boot after another insignificant night — just over 15 minutes of playing time, five rebounds, four fouls, two points — is not a good sign.

But this is what happens when teams get into the playoffs and grind against each other night after night. Let’s hope there was some Pacers matchup that did not suit Boozer, that Hansbrough and Foster and McRoberts and even wispy Danny Granger somehow just got into his shorts and tormented him.

Let’s hope. Because whomever the Bulls play next — Orlando or Atlanta — will present vastly different problems.

So Rose, the quiet assassin, must keep leading the way.

‘‘I was just playing the game,’’ he said of his risky Hibbert stuff.

He had 25 points, six assists and two blocked shots, and when he cut to the basket early in the first quarter, ball tucked under his right arm like a tailback with a football, and beat three Pacers for a layup, everybody knew he was back, and the ankle became irrelevant.

Pray for those feet.



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