It's amazing how different things are when you have a star. Maybe that's what has been the source of much of my consternation this season, that with Derrick Rose on board the stakes are raised: get him help to put yourself into a position where the team matters. And then Rose himself can win games, including playoff ones.
It was just a great game overall (alright, so the officiating stunk...). Rose is far from a star defender so Rajon Rondo was able to nearly match him in a fun duel. Joakim Noah with 17 rebounds, especially big considering how much of a problem defensive rebounding is with this team. If national audiences (and/or Celtics fans) still only knew Noah as the annoying clown from Florida, this was a nice coming out party to show how productive of a player he is.
And then two major contributions down the stretch: Ben Gordon shaking off a rough day (or more accurately, just being a guy who never thinks he'll miss his next shot) to put in 12 fourth quarter points. And then Tyrus Thomas with 3 huge jumpers in overtime, at times looking like the only guy on the Bulls not afraid to shoot. Sometimes that supreme confidence works against Thomas in his shot selection, but it's something that one can live with due to the eventual results, no matter what odd path it took to get there. Seeing him come through in a moment like that was so satisfying as a Tyrus Thomas fan.
And to win in that way saved this series, because I'm not sure the Bulls would've recovered if they lost on a day when Derrick Rose put on this type of performance. So many times when the offense broke down (kidding, they don't have one) it was Rose hitting big shots to keep them in it. With Pierce (credit to Salmons in an otherwise bad game from him) and Allen both having awful games from the field, I'm not sure those circumstances converge again.
And before I rip him, I'll give Vinny credit for conditioning this team to run. It was off makes, misses or TOs (not as many of those from Boston as I would've liked) and it's the way the Bulls can beat this team. I also liked their aggressiveness, as Rose and Gordon went to the line 20 times. Maybe it just took the playoffs for Rose to be treated like other elite guards when it comes to officiating?
But man, I was a volcano of Vinny-hate when it looked like the 4th quarter would yet again be all Brad Miller with Thomas on the bench. Waiting until 2:25 to get him back in was still unconscionable, but luckily not too late. And then VDN's usual strategy of never making a sub for the extra period worked in his favor when Tyrus came through. With him also running out of time outs and subjecting us to an unecessary disasturous Tim Thomas stint, it was a typical VDN game. And they still look like they have no idea what to do at the end of games.
But what remains true in the NBA is that a great player can overcome that. And the Bulls have him. He's crashing the stage that we're told only veterans reign, and leading a team of guys who are relishing the chance to show the world they have talent, overcoming their inexperience and lack of coaching. It's really fun to watch.