This was a virtuoso in concert.
This was a supernova in short pants.
This was downright Jordanesque.
Derrick Rose gave everyone an MVP performance.
Derrick Rose gave everyone an answer.
People questioned his shot. People questioned his lift. People questioned his ability to match his spectacular regular season with an awe-inspiring playoff. Rose answered IN CAPITAL LETTERS the way Jordan always did when criticized.
He torched the Hawks for a career-high 44 points on 16-of-27 shooting in a 99-82 smacking of the Hawks in Atlanta. Rose sank 4 of 7 threes to go along with seven assists and five rebounds, and only two turnovers. That might be the most remarkable part of all. As much as he handled the ball Friday night, and only two turnovers? Brilliant.
If that’s the healthy, dynamic, unstoppable Rose we’re going to see from now on, then bring on Miami. Heck, bring on everybody.
Rose blasted the Hawks for 17 in the first quarter, showing he had regained his hops from, well, the hop. And when the Bulls needed a timeout as the Hawks cut the lead to 11 with about eight minutes to go, Rose scored the next eight points. Ballgame.
You can’t get much more Jordan than that.
You also can’t get much better from Rose’s supporting cast.
Joakim Noah led everyone with 15 rebounds. Eight of those came on the offensive glass, nearly as many as the Hawks managed as a team. Oh, and he also blocked five shots.
Luol Deng scored only seven points, but he grabbed six rebounds and made a defensive play that showed his contributions. With the Hawks running a two-on-one near the end of the third quarter, Deng closed out on Joe Johnson and created a turnover that led to a Rose hoop at the other end for an 80-61 lead. That’s the kind of effort that held Johnson to 10 points on a woeful 4-of-12 shooting.
And don’t forget the bench, which bombed the Hawks for 34 points, led by Taj Gibson’s 13. Of course, Gibson is a bench player in name only right now. As Carlos Boozer suffered through another bad night, Gibson played more minutes than the starter and yanked down 11 rebounds, seven offensive, as the Bulls pounded their way to a 47-34 advantage on the boards.
This is the kind of game that serves notice. Rose and the Bulls were faster, better and tougher. Their marquee postseason performance.
It’s funny that after the Bulls struggled to a win in Game 2, Atlanta’s Jamal Crawford said if that was the Bulls best shot, then “we’re in good shape.’’
Game 2 wasn’t the Bulls’ best shot. Game 3 was. What now, Jamal?