INDIANAPOLIS -- As tough as it might be to believe, Derrick Rose cannot single-handedly win a basketball game.
The Bulls' superstar point guard tried to debunk that theory Friday night by scoring 19 of his career-high-tying 42 points in the fourth quarter and forcing the game into overtime. But Rose simply didn't have enough gas left during the final few minutes of the extra session in the Indiana Pacers' 115-108 victory over the Bulls.
"That's the time when I'm supposed to take over," a frustrated Rose said after the game. "And I didn't show up."
Of course, the 22-year-old is being way too hard on himself. Had he not dominated the fourth quarter and willed his team back from the depths of defeat, the Bulls wouldn't have come close to sniffing their ninth consecutive victory. They were tired and beat up, but Rose wouldn't allow them to fold. He made play after play, getting to the line and converting on 18 of 21 free throws, but it simply wasn't good enough -- for him. He made a costly turnover in overtime that he was still stewing about moments later. No amount of points would make him sleep easier on this night.
"Tonight, I think my turnovers hurt the game," he said. "Plain and simple ... no way I was supposed to turn that ball over in that clutch situation, and I did. I put that on me, man."
Rose can blame himself all he wants, but Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau knows the truth. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, his team looked flat and lifeless throughout most of the contest and never could get things back on track.
"The only quarter we played defense was the fourth," Thibodeau said.
"You usually get what you deserve."
For a man who has gotten his team prepared to play pretty much every game this season, Thibodeau had a hard time trying to stomach what he saw. The Bulls were simply out-hustled most of the game.
"We've got to do a lot better," Thibodeau said. "This is a step backwards. ...You've got to get in the fray. If they're going to make contact, then you've got to fight. And we didn't do that until late. You can't measure what you have to put into a game. You've got to go into the game thinking, 'I'm putting everything I have into this,' and then, I think when you wait around, and now all of a sudden you're in a hole, so you're fighting your way out of the whole, then you don't have enough energy to finish it off in the end, and that's exactly what happened."
That's absolutely what happened to Rose and the Bulls on Friday night, but it brings up another interesting point as this regular season draws to a close. If for some reason Rose can't get it going and save the Bulls when they aren't playing at their best, where do the Bulls turn? At certain times against the Pacers, it looked as if Rose's teammates were deferring almost too much to their star point guard or passing up open looks. Thibodeau refuted the notion, explaining that his team was simply looking for a spark and Rose was the one providing it. OK, fine. But the fact remains that Joakim Noah was the last Bulls player aside from Rose to make a field goal, and that came on a layup with 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Unless somebody steps up to help Rose offensively -- and it is worth pointing out that Carlos Boozer, the team's second-leading scorer, missed Friday's game with an ankle injury-- games like this one could happen again in May.< p>
"All you can do is learn from it; that's the only thing," Rose said. "We still got a lot more games. Next time, I should do something different to change the game."
Or maybe somebody else can do something else to help him.
"Our biggest thing is playing with an edge and being aggressive, and we didn't do that this game," Rose said. "And it's because of me."
If only that were really the case.