CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose knew exactly what he wanted to do.
With Thursday night's game hanging in the balance and the score tied at 89 as precious seconds rolled off the clock, there wasn't a doubt in the 22-year-old's mind that he was going to take the biggest shot of the night and make it. Big, bad LeBron James was guarding him, and the fans at the United Center were roaring. The entire scene was playing out like yet another chapter in Rose's magical season in which the MVP candidate drills the game-winner which gives his team one of its most impressive wins of the season.
"It's great, man," Rose said of the matchup with James in the waning seconds. "Especially being in a situation like that in my hometown and I've got the ball in my hand, you best believe that shot was going to go up, but they double teamed me and I just read the play."
As usual for the Bulls, Rose made the right play. Only this time it wasn't a shot that ended up winning the game for his team, it was a pass.
Deng drilled the 3-pointer and gave the Bulls a lead they would never relinquish. As much as Rose wanted to take the shot, he had no doubt that Deng would come through in the clutch.
"I was going to shoot the shot until D-Wade came over," Rose admitted. "And Lu was wide, wide open. He's my shooting partner in practice. So every time in practice, every time he gets to the corner, he goes 10-for-10 or 9-for-10, so I knew it was going to be an easy shot for him."
Speaking of nondoubters, as the play unfolded, there was no question in Deng's mind that Rose would make the right play.
"Derrick has been making great plays all year," Deng said. "I just knew he was going to make the right play. D. Wade was so concerned with helping LeBron, you've seen what Derrick has been doing all year. I just made sure I was ready to shoot that shot and just concentrated and followed through ... I knew it was good once it left my hand."
Rose was happy to share the spotlight with his veteran teammate for one night.
"Big shot Lu," Rose said. "He's the reason why we won tonight and I'm happy for him. He played great, he played hard and he's still able to hit some big shots ... He's been solid the whole year; consistent, playing hard. He had to face LeBron tonight. Somebody he really takes that challenge [against]. He stepped up and he was still able to go out there and be effective throughout the whole game."
As much as Rose may want to push the spotlight toward someone else after a game like this, he proved once again just how important he is to the success of his team. He made the right plays when it, counted and the confidence he displayed throughout the game was something his teammates fed off of over and over again during the night.
"I think where he's at is perfect," Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer said. "I think he's been able to prove to you guys over the course of the summer how much he's improved his jump shot, with his playmaking ability. Obviously, you guys knew he was a great scorer, but more of a slasher. Now he's like a triple-threat. He can pass, he can shoot, he can make plays, make the right play, like he did for Luol, he hit the three that was a big cushion for us. And it's crazy because he's 22, he just keeps growing. So it's going to scary to see him when he turns 25."
While you marinate on that thought for a moment, don't lose sight of the fact that Rose's selflessness in this particular game gave the Bulls the type of major win they've come to expect this season. Rose and the Bulls knew what was at stake and they took it to the Heat, especially in the second half.
"It was a statement game," Deng admitted. "I thought they played hard. They came out, you could tell it was a big game. But this was a statement game for us, too. We were ready. They have all their players. We've got all our players back, so it's definitely a great win."
Rose couldn't agree more. He felt the vibe in the locker room after the game and he knows that his team can go on to even bigger and better things as the stretch drive comes closer.
"We can go on a run now," Rose said. "I think our confidence is high now. I think it's a great win to come back to, especially off the break, but we got to keep it up."
With Rose at the helm, who would be crazy enough to think otherwise?