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MILWAUKEE -- With the seconds winding off the clock and the score tied at 104, Derrick Rose patiently dribbled behind the 3-point line and waited for his moment.
|Derrick Rose's buzzer-beater stunned the Bucks on Wednesday.|
When the clock hit five, Rose started dribbling toward the basket, and tried to create a little space between himself and Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings. As he forced his way toward the rim, he realized he wouldn't be able to create any more room. With just more than a second remaining, he released a high-arching jumper -- the same kind kids all over the world throw up on the playground every day.
The buzzer sounded.
The red lights around the rim went on.
"As a kid, those are the things you dream about," a smiling Rose said after scoring 30 points and helping the Bulls escape the Bradley Center with a 106-104 win Wednesday. "It felt good."
In a split second, Rose clinched his team's eighth consecutive victory and elevated his game to another level. After struggling with the pressure that comes with knocking down big shots in the final seconds early in his career, the reigning MVP admitted he no longer thinks about the situation. He just embraces the moment.
"It gives me a lot of confidence, man," he said of hitting the crucial jumper. "Where I remember a few years back I was missing them shots, man. I think it's a thing where you just learn from it. Knowing what they give you. My last couple end-of-game shots have been floaters. It seemed like [Jennings] was just backing up a little bit, and I just pulled up."
He pulled up, knocked it down and set off a wild celebration. His teammates engulfed him near center court as the young point guard simply nodded with pride, as if he had known all along that the shot was going in.
"That shot was like a movie," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "It was like a movie. He hit the shot with like no time left on the clock. You saw the horn; the ball just goes in the net. That's unbelievable. That must be an unbelievable feeling being able to hit a shot like that. I'm happy he's on our team."
So is Carlos Boozer. The veteran power forward has been around the league for a while, and he lights up like a child on Christmas while discussing the prowess of his superstar teammate.
"He's a cold-blooded killer when it comes to basketball," Boozer said. "He lives for those moments. He wants to be that guy. He is that guy."
The beauty of Rose's shot for the Bulls is that it erases the fact that they didn't play particularly well Wednesday night. Their defense was raggedy; the players looked flustered by the way the Bucks rushed up and down the floor. Rose's shot changed all of that, though. He reminded everyone that when the Bulls need to make a big play, he is the man his teammates will find.
"What can you say?" Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game. "Another big shot. Played hard all game. Big play after big play."
That's been Rose's story the past year and a half. Thibodeau's quote could be replayed after most games. The interesting twist early in this game was that a small pocket of Bucks fans had the audacity to chant "Overrated" at Rose while he stood at the foul line.
"I try not to listen to it, man," Rose said. "I just try to go out there and play hard. They can cheer whatever they want to cheer. Of course, they're going to cheer that because we're on the road. And if anything, I just feed off of it."
There's no question about that. It's no coincidence that Rose was a career-best 14-for-14 from the line, then hit the game winner for good measure. The point guard, who lives for big moments, always wants to come through in the clutch, but he is fueled by the occasions on which he doesn’t deliver.
Rose went as far as saying his biggest play of the game came 32 seconds before he beat the buzzer. With the score tied at 102, he stepped to the line for two foul shots. Rose's mind flashed back to a game against the Miami Heat when he failed to come through. He was determined not to let that happen again.
"I remember in Miami, the same situation, almost the same situation, where we were down one and [I was] missing both free throws," Rose said. "Just coming up here, I told you that was going to be in my mind, and [I] knocked them down. I think I was more happy that I hit them free throws than that last shot."
He was dead serious.
Rose's growth under the spotlight in clutch moments and his swagger in the final seconds permeates through the locker room. His teammates never feel as if they're out of a game because they know that with Rose on their side, they aren't.
"It's unbelievable," Noah continued. "We need him in that situation. He wants the ball in that situation, and to be part of that, I know is special. It's like a movie. I swear this kid is ... he's special. And everybody knows that. He wants the ball down the stretch. He doesn't want the screen; he just wanted the ball in that situation. And I know his confidence is sky high right now."
Why shouldn't it be? Moments after his younger brother had knocked down the first buzzer-beater of his career, Rose's older brother Reggie walked over to the media table with a huge smile on his face.
"Y'all need me to write this story?" he said with a laugh.
The answer was no. When it comes to Derrick Rose these days, the story continues writing itself.