- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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That may be hard to believe considering that was the time he dropped a floater in the lane that gave the Chicago Bulls a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Rose's most important move of the game came late in the fourth quarter with the Bulls trailing by as many as 10 points and looking for any way to scratch back into the game. That's when the 23-year-old captain gathered his teammates together and delivered a simple message.
"I told them that we've been in this situation before," Rose said in a crowded locker room after the game. "[The Lakers] are a new team, they have new players [a] new system. I said that they haven't been in that circumstance yet. And we've been there. And thank God we just got a couple of steals, a great couple of plays, and we won the game."
Rose would be the first one to tell people that he wasn't the biggest reason the Bulls won the game. After all, it was Luol Deng who made several huge plays down the stretch, on both ends of the floor. But it was Rose who made the big shot and got his team's mindset back in place as the game started slipping away.
"Derrick told us with three minutes to go, 'We've been in this position before. Let's just keep fighting,'" Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "I feel like we didn't play our best basketball, but to come up and win in this fashion, it just says a lot about this team."
It also says a lot about Rose. He continues to mature into the type of leader the Bulls organization wants him to become. At the beginning of last season it might have been tough for him to open up his mouth in that kind of situation. He might have deferred toward a veteran teammate such as Deng, or a more vocal teammate such as Noah. That's not the case anymore. Rose clearly has developed a comfort level for not only making big shots, but also speaking his mind to his teammates.
"I liked us at the end," Rose said. "I think that we held them to a low percentage at the end. In those couple of minutes, we made everything tough for them. We rebounded the ball; that's something we didn't do throughout the whole game, gang rebound. I guess it's just our first game, we're not used to it yet ... but defensively I think that we should be fine."
There's a reason why so many people in Chicago believe that this is the year the Bulls win their seventh championship. When Coach Tom Thibodeau's group plays defense the way it did late, and Rose makes the plays to close things out, the Bulls have the type of chemistry that teams search entire seasons for. Rose and the Bulls look like they picked right up where they left off during the regular season last year.
"It's one big shot after the next," Thibodeau said of Rose. "And it's been that way certainly all last year, and starting this year. He's something."
Rose gives his teammates and coaches the type of confidence that only superstars can. With Rose on the floor, the Bulls always feel like they have a chance to win, no matter how large of a hole they dig for themselves.
"You know Derrick wants the ball in his hands at the end of the game," Noah said. "It was an unbelievable shot. But we've seen him hit that shot before."
When the Bulls need a basket, there's only one place they turn. They trust that Rose will come through in the clutch again, as he did again on Sunday night. Noah admitted that even he gets caught watching his friend on the floor sometimes.
"I'm trying not to," he said with a smile. "It's hard."
On this night, Rose's words to his team may have spoken even louder than his play on the floor. With the way he's elevated his game over the past year, that truly is saying something.
Derrick Rose's inspirational message to his team in the fourth quarter was vital.