Game-winner just as Rose dreamed it
Derrick Rose picks up a loose ball ahead of the Bucks' Brandon Jennings during the first half Wednesday in Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- In Derrick Rose's mind, this was the sort of moment he's dreamed about since he was a kid -- tie game, final seconds, tough opponent, hostile road arena.
Wait a minute, scratch the hostile arena part. There were plenty of good seats available at the Bradley Center on Wednesday and, as usual, Bulls fans made the most noise.
Everything else was exactly what Rose imagined when he used to shoot baskets in the neighborhood park. He's gotten better at hitting clutch shots over the years, but this was his first walk-off home run. Rose drained a 21-foot jumper at the buzzer to lift the Bulls to a 106-104 victory over the battling Milwaukee Bucks.
"That shot was like a movie," teammate Joakim Noah described. "He hit the shot. No time left on the clock. You saw the horn, the ball settles in the net. That must be an unbelievable feeling to hit a shot like that. I'm happy he's on my team."
The buzzer-beater gave the Bulls their eighth straight victory. With a 33-8 record through 41 games, the Bulls would be on pace to finish 66-16 if this were a normal 82-game campaign.
"What a luxury to have," said Bucks coach Scott Skiles. "You don't even need to run a play. You can just bring it in, throw it to a guy and he can get whatever shot he wants."
The winning streak was in jeopardy, though, when Milwaukee forward Ersan Ilyasova (32 points) followed in a missed shot with 24 seconds left to tie the score. It came just in time to ensure the Bulls would get the last shot.
Rose took the clock down, thought about driving to his left, but saw that the Bucks' defense was stacked to clog his path to the basket. So he took a couple dribbles left, stepped back and launched a long shot over the arm of Bucks guard Brandon Jennings.
"I was going to shoot the floater again," Rose said in the locker room. "He (Jennings) was sagging off when I started to go into my move. That's what made me shoot it. I shot it with a lot of arc, so I just gave it a chance and tonight, it went in."
Rose finished with 30 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds. He didn't shoot well from the field (8-for-22), but went 14-for-14 from the foul line. Noah added 20 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bulls led most of the night, but trailed 95-93 with 3:46 left. A jumper by Luol Deng, tip-in from Noah and fast-break lay in by Rose gave the visitors a cushion. On the next trip, Deng canned a 3-pointer off a pass from Rose and the Bulls led 102-97 with 1:54 remaining.
Bucks guard Beno Udrih scored the game's next 5 points and tied the score on a driving lay in with 42.9 seconds left. Rose drew a foul on the other end and knocked down both free throws with 32.5 seconds on the clock to make it 104-102.
"I think I was more happy that I hit those free throws than the last shot," Rose said.
Early in his NBA career, Rose had trouble hitting shots in game-winning situations. But just like everything else in his game, he keeps improving. He opened this season with a clutch floater in the final seconds to beat the Los Angeles Lakers.
"It seems like I've been learning from it from the beginning of the season," he said. "I'm just taking what they give me. It's just staying under control when you're in that situation.
"I'm just blessed that I'm on this team and they gave me the ball at the end. It shows how much respect the have for me, how much confidence they have in me."
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