- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose is so humble and soft spoken that you want to believe him when he tries to tell you that one spectacular play can't turn the entire complexion of a game.
With 10:29 left in the fourth quarter and the Bulls clinging to a four-point lead over the Detroit Pistons, Luol Deng poked the ball away from the Pistons near the Bulls bench and pushed it over to Rose. Rose, who had already dominated the third quarter with 11 points, raced up the floor and kicked it over to Ronnie Brewer on the left wing. Brewer took one dribble and lofted a pass back to Rose.
What followed next was the type of play that every kid dreams about finishing in their backyard. The difference is that Rose has the athletic ability that turns dreams into realities. He took Brewer's pass, which he thought may have been just a bit high, and flushed it home with his right hand. The play left the United Center in awe, Neil Funk and Stacey King discussing the finer points of elevators and Boozer, and the rest of his teammates, going crazy on the bench.
"That was a great play," Boozer said in the joyous postgame locker room. "That has to be the number one play on SportsCenter, on WGN, on NBATV, and whatever other channels [people] are watching the Bulls games. He went up and got that ball and threw it in so hard. To me, that was a backbreaker, even though we had a whole 'nother quarter to play ... we all got hyped on the bench. He does some special things every night, but that was special for us tonight."
Good luck getting Rose to believe that. He brushed it off as just another play in just another game.
"A dunk, to me, is a dunk," Rose said. "Where it's worth two points and I just went up with one hand and got it ... I'm happy that [Boozer] thought that, because after that dunk I still was trying to get away."
The Bulls got away with a win, in large part due to the fact that Rose once again took control of the contest. It's that kind of will, and that kind of play, that continues to impress players and coaches alike.
"Derrick Rose is an outstanding basketball player," Pistons head coach John Kuester said. "I enjoy everything about him. Not only is he gifted as a player both offensively and defensively, but he has a passion for the game. His body language for the entire game was the same whether they were ahead or behind. That is the mark of a great one."
While Rose's consistency this season has placed him into the discussion for the MVP award, it's his dunk in the fourth quarter that everyone will be talking about over the next couple of days. Brewer knows that playing with Rose makes everybody on the Bulls look better.
"I wanted to make a play where it wasn't too low where the defender can knock the ball and steal the ball," he said. "It was either going to be a turnover on me or he was going to catch it and finish, and I knew he was one of the more athletic point guards in the league and he makes plays like that all the time, so I didn't feel bad where I put it. It was a little high, but I knew he would make a conscious effort to go get it."
Go get it he did. Although Rose said after the game that he didn't even think it was the best in-game dunk he's had. He thought the one in Phoenix last year over Goran Dragic was even better.
"I just jump high," Rose said. "I don't try to be creative or anything. I just try to cock it back, making sure they don't hit the ball and I guess people like it."
There is no doubt his teammates fed off the energy that the emphatic dunk provided.
"When you see somebody on the team playing with that much energy, so much intensity, it's contagious, I think," Brewer said. "I think guys want to match that level. You see him make a dunk like that and it makes you want to dive after a loose ball or sprint after a loose rebound. It's like a snowball effect, guys kind of pick up off that and it builds and it builds and it builds. I think our defense stepped up really well."
Brewer knows that while Rose's dunks may surprise fans, the players have simply gotten used to the magic he can provide on a nightly basis.
"If you watch D. Rose, you already know," Brewer said. "When you think he's going fast he has a different gear to go faster. And when you think he's jumping high, he has another level to go a little higher."
For Rose, it was all in a day's work. He said he never practices anything like that, which is probably true, especially when you consider that he has said repeatedly that he doesn't want to participate in the dunk contest at All-Star Weekend.
"I'm getting pretty old in this league," the 22-year-old said with a laugh. "I just try to save my legs as much as possible."