The Chicago Bulls walked away as the biggest winners on Sunday's jam-packed slate of NBA goodness. The Central Division leaders notched an 87-86 road victory over the Miami Heat to take over second place in the Eastern Conference, sweep their season series with Erik Spoelstra's squad and extend a four-game losing streak that reportedly had some in the home locker room reaching for the Kleenex.
The win was paced, as most Bulls wins are, by the performance of All-Star point guard and top-tier MVP candidate Derrick Rose(notes), who finished with 27 points on 12-for-23 shooting and authored several stunning plays, including this lightning-quick crossover and no-angle floater (plus the foul) that he busted out late in the second quarter to cut Miami's lead to single digits.
Under most circumstances, I would regard any time that ESPN/ABC play-by-play man Mike Tirico takes mic time away from the incomparable Hubie Brown as a pistols-at-dawn-worthy broach of NBA broadcast etiquette, but in this case, he's absolutely right to emphasize for the home viewer just how difficult a shot Rose hit — in the air, going out of bounds, using his right hand, which obliterates the already wafer-thin angle, and releasing the ball from just behind the backboard.
It's a remarkable play, the kind of thing that a play-by-play data entry of "Derrick Rose makes 8-foot two-point shot" doesn't accurately reflect.
And the shot that Rose hit in the third might have been even better.
After a missed connection between LeBron James(notes) and Erick Dampier(notes), Bulls guard Keith Bogans(notes) feeds the ball to Rose, who immediately turns up court and looks to streak out on the break. Pounding the dribble with his left hand, Rose gets to the front of the rim, wards off Dwyane Wade(notes) with a right shoulder bump, pumps and goes up-and-under to avoid James' attempt at one of his famed chasedown blocks, and finds just enough room to get the ball up on the backboard and through the hoop. It was a wonderful display of Rose's combination of toughness, athleticism and savvy, and it left the Heat stymied.
Plays like these tend to stick out in our mind because they evoke visceral reactions — they're not necessarily the best possible shots or the highest-percentage looks, owing to the extreme degree of difficulty associated with actually knocking them in, but when you see players come through on them, you're reminded of just how gifted they really are. By proving he only needs a few millimeters of daylight to make something fantastic happen, Derrick Rose may have simultaneously kicked the door of the Eastern Conference Playoffs wide open, closed the book on this year's MVP race (in the minds of some, at least) and shined a national television spotlight on the continued evolution of a truly special talent.
International readers ("Int'l read'rs"): If the clips above aren't rocking for you, you can feel free to peruse Rose's cross-and-floater and that double-tough third-quarter layup elsewhere, thanks to our man @Jose3030.