Derrick Rose is leading the team in scoring. Taj Gibson is making a massive impact off the bench and closing games. Tom Thibodeau is barking orders from the sidelines as his team succeeds playing grind-it-out basketball.
What year is it?
It’s not 2011, it’s 2021, and they’re doing it for the Knicks and not the Bulls.
This postseason has been a blast to watch so far, and the first-round series between the Knicks and Hawks has been totally surreal and filled with drama. A full Madison Square Garden has only made things more intense, with both games at MSG coming down to the wire in what looks like a long series.
It feels weird to root for the Knicks as a Bulls fan, but with so much history with Rose, Taj and Thibs, it’s simply hard not to. It’s bringing me a whole lot of Bulls nostalgia and bringing me back to a time when it was actually always fun to watch them play, which is something we’ve been missing for years.
Rose had 17/5/5 and hit a clutch shot in 38 Game 1 minutes before Trae Young’s heroics, and then he led the Knicks with 26 points off the bench in 39 minutes in a Game 2 victory. Perhaps more shocking than Rose’s production is the playing time after all his injuries. With Elfrid “Keith Bogans” Payton offering nothing, Thibs is riding Rose hard.
Then there’s Gibson, who’s still going strong and making hustle plays at 35 years old. He had a classic Taj line of six points, seven rebounds (four offensive), three steals and a block in 30 minutes off the bench in Game 2, and he was a game-high plus-23 in relief of an ineffective Nerlens Noel. Gibson put the exclamation point on the game with one of his patented two-handed slams.
And then there’s Thibs, a Coach of the Year candidate thanks to taking this Knicks team many expected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA to 41 wins and the No. 4 seed in the East. They’re not the most talented team in the world, but they play elite defense, play their ass off and never say die. Sound familiar? The Payton-Bogans parallel is also hilarious, though it’s getting even more extreme now and Payton might finally be done after getting benched in favor of Rose to start the second half of Game 2.
Obviously, I would much prefer to root for the Bulls in the playoffs. We’re actually somewhat excited about what’s in store moving forward, even with so many question marks. But for the last few years now (Jimmy Butler last year), it has still been fun watching former Bulls greats succeed in the postseason.
This was awesome to see:
An emotional Taj Gibson on winning a playoff game with Tom Thibodeau and Derrick Rose after all they've been through:— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) May 27, 2021
"This is some magical stuff right now. I don't know how to explain it. I don't take anything for granted, but every day I come in, it's just surreal." pic.twitter.com/qF95Iz4tYD
Also, how about Cam Payne?