In a league of guards, Derrick Rose is the one.
The quintessential point guard, with his dazzling array of speed, acrobatics and court awareness, single-handedly fended off a late New York rally to help his Chicago Bulls defeat the Knicks 105-102 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
Chicago was playing their fourth game in five nights -including a lopsided loss to the Philadelphia 76ers the night before- and they were again without starters, Luol Deng (left wrist) and Richard Hamilton (right thigh), but the NBA’s reigning most valuable player wouldn’t be denied on this night. D. Rose and the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony were both voted in as starters to represent the East in the All-Star game, but the Bulls’ guard made sure he was the lone star at MSG. Rose twisted, slashed and passed his way to 32 points and 13 assists, despite shooting 12-for-26 from the field, to prevent a two-game skid for Chicago. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Bulls haven’t lost consecutive regular-season games since Feb. 5-7, 2011, and Rose made sure a repeat of Wednesday’s desultory effort against the Sixers didn’t occur on Thursday.
After a slow start this season, Amar’e Stoudemire returned to his All-Star form, scoring the Knicks’ first seven points, and 16 of their first 32, as he had 18 of his season-high 34 points in the first half. STAT’s midrange jumper was smooth and his drives to the basket were aggressive, but as expected, the Knicks’ offense unraveled as they committed 10 second-quarter turnovers, allowing Chicago to take a 55-44 lead into halftime. But, the Bulls porous defense allowed the Knicks to get right back into it. Stoudemire fueled an early third-quarter rally with a driving dunk, followed by a block of Rose. Melo scored twice and fed center Tyson Chandler for an alley-oop dunk as New York gradually whittled the deficit from 12-points to 2. After Chicago pushed the lead back to 8 points, Anthony rallied the Knicks again, scoring 12 points in the period on 6-of-10 shots from the field, including hitting three consecutive jumpers to tie the score at 75 apiece. But on the next Bulls’ possession, the Knicks’ Jared Jefferies, who went scoreless, was called for a foul on Ronnie Brewer. When Chandler disputed the call to the refs, he received a technical and Kyle Korver hit the shot and Brewer split a pair of free throws, and New York never tied the score again, 77-75, to end the third.
The fourth quarter belonged to Rose. He had 15 of his points in the final period, scoring on three straight possession within a minute to extend the Bulls lead to 84-79. Stoudemire kept the Knicks in it as Anthony went cold. Amar’e made three consecutive baskets of his own narrowing the gap to 90-85, but then D. Rose took over. First, he hit a pull up jumper, then he split STAT and Melo and miraculously spun home a layup off the backboard and finally he hit a 25-foot 3-pointer to extend Chicago’s lead to 95-88 with 5:52 left. Leading 99-96, the Bulls’ Joakim Noah blocked Anthony’s shot and rookie Jimmy Butler, playing clutch minutes for Chicago, knocked down a jumper, off of Rose’s assists, with 1:07 remaining, 101-96. Still, the Knicks wouldn’t go away. New York pulled within one, 101-100, off an Anthony jumper and a Landry Fields baseline layup off an Stoudemire assists with 23.4 left. On the Bulls next possession, Knicks’ breakout rookie Iman Shumpert fouled Korver, and he knocked down both free throws to give Chicago a 103-100 advantage with 13.7 seconds to go. Off an inbounds play, Stoudemire received a pass at the top of the arc and quickly fired over Noah. The shot hit front rim and the Bulls’ Taj Gibson (three points) rebounded STAT’s missed 3-point attempt and split his free throws with 9.3 seconds left. Melo sank two free throws on a miscommunication foul by Brewer with 6.3 seconds remaining. Rose, who missed two clutch free throws in Miami on Sunday, missed another late-game free throw but made the second to extend the Bulls lead to 105-102 with 5.3 left, opening the door for a possible game-tying shot. But Anthony’s 30-foot heave at the buzzer caromed off the side of the rim and the Bulls escaped with the win.
The Knicks opened a three games in three nights stretch with their 10th loss in 12 games. Anthony finished with 10-for-26 for 26 points, but he was just 1-for-6 in the final period for just four points. The loss brought more distress to embattled Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni, who’s under the hot seat for New York’s dismal 8-14 record this season. Stoudemire finished with a game-high 34 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block to complete his best performance of the season. Chandler finished with nine points, eight rebounds and a block. Fields had 17 points and four assists and Shumpert 10 points and a career-high eight assists. New York will travel to Boston to play the Celtics on Friday and return home on Saturday to face the New Jersey Nets.
Chicago never trailed in the second half and push their Eastern Conference-leading record to 19-6. In the Bulls nine-game road trip they post a record of 2-2, but Thursday night’s win against the Knicks extended their league-leading road record to 10 wins. The Bulls got another active effort from Noah, who overcame foul trouble early in the third quarter to finish with 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Carlos Boozer and Korver each had 16 points and C.J. Watson contributed 12, Brewer had six and Butler had seven points off the bench. The Bulls will head to Milwaukee to face the Brandon Jennings and the Bucks on Saturday.