Monday, December 26, 2011

Bulls Begin Season with Trademark Win

Derrick Rose has done it again. D Rose delivered in the clutch with a little help from Luol Deng, delivering the Bulls a thrilling last second victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. The win illustrated the Chicago Bulls in a nutshell - clutch play by Rose, stellar defense down the stretch, and a cohesiveness that underlies how incredible the Bulls have a chance to be.

Watching the game, it appeared that Kobe Bryant, against all odds, was going to single-handedly will the Lakers to a gutty win over the Bulls. In a way, it was a game much like last year. Rip Hamilton had a miserable Bulls debut, with 5 fouls and 6 points in 23 minutes. Granted, we know that it's the first game of the season, but surely we expected more from Rip than a Keith Bogans copycat performance. Joakim Noah was mired in the same foul trouble and had a seemingly inconsequential 6 points and 9 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Kobe and the Lakers took off in the third quarter. At one point, the Bulls seemed to be all but out of the game, drawing distinct glares from Tom Thibodeau as they struggled to rotate on defense and left the three point line pretty much undefended. Yet, once the Bulls got down by double-digits with around 5 minutes left, the Bulls we know and love from last year showed up. They got key steals, forced bad shots, made free throws, and kept trudging towards a victory. Then, after Kobe hit a ridiculous turnaround fadeaway over two defenders, a couple of sequences later this happened:

D Rose and the Bulls are just plain special. I use that word a lot, but with the Bulls it takes a special team. Rose apparently got in the huddle near the end of the game and reminded his team what it was going to take to win, how close of a team they are, and how the latter can lead to the former. And he's exactly right. Think of how the team worked together down the stretch - Rose with a key feed to Boozer for a huge basket, Deng with great defense on Kobe, Noah with several clutch rebounds, Rose with the grand finish, and finally, Deng with a spectacular block on Kobe to prevent the most clutch player since MJ from winning the game for the Lakers.

Rose with the Giant Killer to win the game
Let's not forget that the Bulls had been written off. They weren't going to win this game. I was already starting to think ahead to the next game, and try to come to terms with what had just happened. But then shouldn't I, and other Bulls fans know just how this team responds to adversity? It all centers on Rose, who has brought an attitude and style to Chicago that has transformed the entire basketball landscape. He's humble; the first thing he said after the game was that he wanted to thank his teammates for giving him the opportunity to take the winning shot. He's a leader; it was Rose who got into the huddle and fired his teammates up, something that was unheard of from Rose even 2 years ago. He's eager to learn; each cut to the Bulls huddle during a timeout showed Rose at the forefront of the huddle, learning and listening to anything he could from Thibodeau. He's trusting; more than any superstar in the league he trusts and expects his teammates to get the job done. He's calm and collected; I had no doubt that when he got the ball at the end, he was going to make something happen that would win the game. And more importantly overall, he's one of the best at what he does; playing and winning basketball games.

I just can't say it enough - that this is all a reflection of the Bulls' team identity under D Rose. This team is going to be exceedingly dangerous. They go 10-11 deep and on most nights will get more from Rip and Noah. And keep in mind that if the Bulls had any luck hitting shots yesterday, they would have flat out owned the Lakers. They have the defense to keep them in any game against any opponent, and a superstar from Chicago who will cares about winning above all else. I can't believe that us Bulls fans, who were blessed with the career of Michael Jordan, have been so lucky as to get another great one. And the Bulls, to their credit, have surrounded D Rose with the talent that he needs to win the championship this year. If they Bulls were anything less than the defensive stalwarts they are, or lacked any of the immense chemistry they have, they would have fallen to the Lakers on a day they couldn't even buy a basket. But as it stands, they start the season with an epic victory over Kobe and Co., and appear poised to make this season yet another special one at the UC. CAN'T WAIT.