OAKLAND, Calif. -- Derrick Rose made history on Tuesday night.
In the midst of the Chicago Bulls' best win of the season, an emotional 113-111 overtime triumph over the Golden State Warriors, who were denied their 20th straight win at home, Rose pulled off a never-before-seen NBA feat. He became the first player in league history to score at least 30 points, turn the ball over at least 10 times (he had 11) and have one assist or fewer, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
But as usual with Rose, and these Bulls, the numbers don't tell the entire tale.
For instance, Rose missed 20 of his 33 shots, but he drilled the game-winner with 8.4 seconds left in overtime with the type of icy confidence that he displayed during his MVP season of 2010-11. He played 43 minutes in a game, the most he has played in one contest in almost three seasons. Most importantly, when his team needed him to hit the biggest shot of the night, he had no hesitation taking it.
"A player like myself, I want them moments," Rose said. "I want that shot. My teammates gave me the ball to take the shot and it looks good on the resume. I'm not running away from them shots, I'm not turning them down. If anything, my teammates are going to give me the ball to take the shot, so that's a good feeling."
As has been the case all season with the Bulls, they find a way to win games they're not supposed to win, while finding ways to lose games to lesser opponents that they have no business losing. The Bulls won on a night in which they played without two starters (Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy) and against a team that has been virtually unbeatable at home.
But Tuesday offered another reminder that the Bulls will go only as far as Rose and his rebuilt knees can take them. As important as Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Butler are, Rose remains the largest potential difference-maker because of his ability to take over games late and deliver in the most pressure-packed situations. He has the type of superstar ability that the rest of his teammates feed off each night. When the game is on the line, they try to find the former MVP on the floor, no matter how poorly he has played to that point.
"I think we feel comfortable with Derrick taking responsibility in those moments because he definitely doesn't hide and he's very aggressive," Gasol said. "And tonight I think he was very aggressive all night long. I think it says a lot about his confidence level, how confident he is, that even if he had a tough shooting night and a tough night offensively, as far as taking care of the ball, he still feels comfortable shooting that last shot and knocking it down.
"I think that's important, that's a big factor, and it definitely gives us confidence going forward."
The differences in Rose's game underscore the differences for the Bulls as a whole. So often during Tom Thibodeau's five-year tenure as head coach, the Bulls' effort was never in doubt. Win or lose, the Bulls were almost always going to play tough, physical basketball and grind against teams until the very end. Before Rose's ACL tear in April 2012, fans knew what to expect from Rose each game. He was quicker and more aggressive than almost everyone on the floor and would find ways to take over the game when it mattered most.
Three seasons later, things have changed for the Bulls and Rose. The Bulls' inconsistent effort is a point of frustration for Thibodeau. Too often this season it looks as though players are just coasting through games and not executing properly on a team that is playing with the weight of championship expectations on its shoulders. Meanwhile, Rose remains more of a wild card than a sure thing on most nights. Some nights he looks engaged on both ends and takes over, as he did on Tuesday. Other nights he looks passive and relies too much on an inconsistent 3-point shot (31.3 percent).
The difference now is that the Bulls don't rely on Rose as much as they did in seasons past. They are deeper and more talented on the offensive end than they've ever been in the Thibodeau era. For as deep as they are, the Bulls still need Rose to be the player he used to be some nights. They need the old Rose to strike fear in their opponents every now and then to remind other teams, and themselves, just how dangerous they can be when he gets rolling.
"He didn't allow missed shots to take away from the belief that he could still make and take a big shot," Thibodeau said. "That's all a sign of his greatness and him working his way back to being the player we all know he can be."
If the Bulls want to win a championship this year, they are going to need this Rose to show up even more during the final few months of the season. Good news for them is that he can still be that superstar when needed. Just ask the Warriors.