Monday night at 7 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago is kicking off a week of classic Derrick Rose performances. The first: His postseason debut on April 18, 2009 against the Boston Celtics.
And what a debut it was.
In it, Rose made history in multiple forms and the Bulls battened down the hatches defensively to combine for an exhilarating 105-103 overtime win on the road over the defending champs. Though the Bulls would go on to lose the series in seven games, their going toe-to-toe with the Celtics as a No. 7 seed served as a look-ahead to the promise of the Rose era in Chicago.
Here’s what to watch for in this one:
I mentioned Rose’s debut was historic, and indeed it was. His 36 points in the contest matched an NBA record for points by a rookie in their playoff debut, which was originally set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) in 1970. Here’s an appetizer:
What’s more, on the way to tying Abdul-Jabbar, Rose also jumped Wilt Chamberlain (35 points, 1960) and Tim Duncan (32 points, 1998). Solid company to join four days before being named the third Rookie of the Year in Bulls franchise history.
But a less-remembered tidbit: This game marked the Bulls’ first ever playoff victory over the Celtics; they entered the contest 0-10 against Boston in postseason games. And it came just two days before the 23rd anniversary of the most famous of those defeats — Michael Jordan’s 63-point outing in an overtime loss at the original Boston Garden in 1986. 36 backwards is 63. Simulation theory lives.
Aside from the 36 points, Rose also racked 11 assists in this one — a marker of the true team effort this victory was.
From an emphatic alley-oop to Joakim Noah (who finished with an peak Jo statline of 11 points, 17 rebounds, three blocks and 14 bone-chilling screams) for the Bulls’ first basket of the game to Ben Gordon’s 12 fourth quarter points (he and Rose combined for 23 in the period), to Tyrus Thomas’ midrange jumper to pull the Bulls ahead 105-103 in the closing seconds of OT, to John Salmons’ block of Paul Pierce on the Celtics’ final possession, everyone chipped in for this one.
As a team, the Bulls held the Celtics to 39.4% shooting. Ray Allen shot just 1-for-12 overall and 0-for-6 from 3. And on the offensive end, Rose’s blinding speed and rare explosion goaded the Celtics into allowing him 12 free throws (he made all of them) while also freeing up his teammates. It’s the first of many perfect basketball games in this series.
Picking on the pundits
Two then-Celtics turned pundits take the brunt of the Bulls’ wrath in this one. Paul Pierce shot just 8-for-21 from the floor, missed a free throw that would have put the Celtics ahead by one with 2.6 seconds remaining in regulation and, as mentioned, was swatted by Salmons on a crucial possession late in OT. Perkins did cobble together 14 points and eight rebounds, but Rose leapfrogged him for many-a-layup throughout.
For those both nostalgic for Rose’s prime and increasingly fatigued by Pierce and Perkins’ present-day takes, there’s something deeply satisfying in it.
NBC Sports Chicago will honor the Bulls great with “Derrick Rose Week presented by Saint Xavier University” starting up Monday, June 8 at 7:00 PM CT with the first of five-straight nights of “Classic” game performances. See full schedule here.