Derrick Rose made his return to the Bulls starting lineup on Sunday after missing the last 12 games with a groin injury. The reigning MVP started slowly, exploded in the third quarter and was hit-or-miss from then on, finishing with 29 points, four assists, and eight turnovers in 39 minutes of action.
Rose was the story going in, but once the game got started, the afternoon belonged to Carmelo Anthony, who scored a season-high 43 points and drained two clutch three-pointers that propelled the Knicks to a 100-99 overtime win over a Bulls team that owns the league’s best record.
Rose clearly had some rust to shake off, and went 1-of-6 from the field for seven points, one assist, and five turnovers as the Knicks got off to a fast start, leading by as many as 21 points in the first quarter. Anthony had 22 points by halftime, and looked very comfortable getting each and every one of them.
In the third quarter, however, Rose seemed to find his stride. And the Bulls did what’s made them successful all season long: they made halftime adjustments and locked down defensively to get themselves back in the game. Rose exploded for 14 points in the third, while the Bulls’ team defense held the Knicks to just 30.4 percent shooting.
Chicago led by three after three, and put two and three defenders in front of Anthony for most of the fourth quarter, which forced the Knicks into swinging the ball and hoisting long three-pointers or contested jump-shots out on the perimeter. J.R. Smith was the one who got most of the open looks, but he couldn’t find his range, finishing just 1-of-6 in the period and a dreadful 6-of-22 for the game.
The Bulls seemed to have everything under control, and led by 10 points with just under 3:30 to play in regulation. But Rose, partly due to rust and fatigue, and partly due to some excellent defense from Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert, forced the issue down the stretch, but missed open shots and chances at the rim. Two of Rose’s turnovers came as the Knicks closed the period with a 10-0 run, capped by Anthony’s three that sent it to overtime.
But that was nothing compared to the game-winner Carmelo hit, a cold-blooded three that came after a furious Knicks possession in which they simply out-hustled a Bulls team that has built its reputation on doing exactly that. New York’s final possession began with 43 seconds left in overtime, but after multiple offensive rebounds and four shot attempts, it didn’t end until Anthony’s game-winning three went down with 8.2 seconds remaining.
Rose took the final shot attempt, and had a decent look at a runner of about seven feet, but it wasn’t to be.
This was Anthony’s game, and he played it efficiently and with a superstar swagger that very few of the game’s best players are able to display. Carmelo seems to play best when he has the spotlight to himself; this performance came with Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin both still out due to injury. On this afternoon, he was able to take advantage of it.