With Steve Kerr calling the game courtside for TNT and Toni Kukoc stopping by the United Center to join dynasty-era regulars Scottie Pippen, Randy Brown, Stacey King, Bill Wennington and John Paxson, the roar surely sounded familiar.
As soon as public address announcer Tommy Edwards began his familiar call of “From Chicago…”, the joint erupted as it did so often when Michael Jordan and Co. roamed the place and dominated the league.
Sure, Rose had played exhibitions at home already. But the sellout crowd of 22,022 knew Thursday night marked something special, something more real.
And Rose provided game-winning heroics that a certain No. 23 would’ve loved, rising high over Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to drop home a difficult right-handed floater with 5.7 seconds remaining for an 82-81 victory.
Carmelo Anthony’s good look at a potential game-winner over Luol Deng rimmed out at the buzzer.
The Bulls tied a franchise record with their sixth straight home opening victory. It’s also their sixth straight triumph over the Knicks, a franchise quite familiar with that decorated Bulls’ era.
Rose’s game-winner gave him a team-high 18 points and softened the stain of his second straight difficult shooting night. Rose went 7-for-23 from the field and committed two costly turnovers in the final 87 seconds.
Luol Deng, aggressive throughout after his foul-plagued opener, added 17 points. Joakim Noah battled Chandler throughout and grabbed 15 rebounds.
Chandler had given the Knicks, who trailed by 10 entering the fourth, a one-point lead with 10.8 seconds left after splitting two free throws following a loose-ball foul on Noah. Chandler had 19 boards.
Wearing black tape on a stiff neck that sidelined him from the morning shootaround, Rose looked like he sported racing stripes. But too often, he played too fast for his own good, another sign he and the Bulls aren’t yet fully in sync.
After a mostly flat effort in Miami, the Bulls followed through on their vow to play more aggressively. They pushed the ball in transition. They attacked the rim relentlessly. They rotated with purpose defensively.
They also played with more emotion. Taj Gibson looked like he was celebrating a game-winner when he creatively put back Kirk Hinrich’s miss at the first-quarter buzzer for a 10-point Bulls’ lead. Hinrich later prompted his teammates to leap off the bench in celebration of a nifty spin move in the lane on Iman Shumpert for a reverse lay-in.
Outside shots, not drives, finally got Rose going. He knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers early in the third quarter after a 2-for-11 first half.
In 13 previous career games against the Knicks, Rose had averaged 24.7 points and 7.1 assists. He didn’t see nearly as many double-teams as he did in the Heat opener, but he knows they’re coming from opponents.
“Oh yeah for sure,” he said. “They’re not even letting me get a chance to attack the big like I wanted to. They were jumping out way before I got to the screen. Just trying to make the game simple. Find Joakim or Taj of whoever it is in the middle and they have to make plays from there.”
The Knicks changed their starting lineup from their season-opening home victory over the Bucks, going bigger with Andrea Bargnani replacing Metta World Peace. But the Bulls won the battle of the boards, 48-41.