Derrick Rose’s Buzzer-Beater Gives Bulls a Pivotal Win Over the Cavaliers


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Teammates hoisted Derrick Rose, second from left, after his game-winning shot against the Cavaliers on Friday.

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David Banks/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

CHICAGO — As a sustained, deafening roar filled the United Center late Friday night, Derrick Rose jogged the length of the court to the Chicago Bulls’ bench, did a 180-degree leap into the arms of Joakim Noah and rested in his teammate’s embrace for a moment, a blank expression on his face.

It seemed to betray relief as much as swagger, fatigue as much as joy.

In a rough and unseemly game, with long stretches of ragged play interspersed with brief displays of individual brilliance, Rose provided the final, devastating act, banking a 3-pointer in at the buzzer to give the Bulls a 99-96 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series.

It was Rose’s 26th shot and only the 10th one he made, but that hardly mattered in its afterglow: The Bulls hold a 2-1 lead in the series, which will resume here Sunday afternoon.

“It’s very well deserved,” Noah said of Rose, who has undergone three operations on his knees since 2012. “Derrick has gone through so much over the last couple of years — so much adversity, so much pain not being able to play basketball games — but he’s somebody who has a lot of confidence in himself, more than anybody I’ve ever been around.”

Noah paused and then added, “I know he’s special.”

Injuries over the years have suppressed that quality in Rose, who won the Most Valuable Player Award in the 2010-11 season. He underwent his latest operation in February to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, and his performance has been shaky since his return in April.

This game, then, felt restorative.

Rose was one of a gaggle of stars in the game who was struggling to make shots, but he never stopped hoisting, finishing with 30 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. He scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, his shots seeming heroic when they fell in and ill-advised when they clanged out. LeBron James had the same mind-set, going 8 for 25 from the field while leading the Cavaliers with 27 points, 14 assists and 8 rebounds.

With the Cavaliers down by 1 point, James missed a layup with 23.9 seconds left in the game and had to foul Taj Gibson, who came down with the rebound. Gibson made both free throws, putting the Bulls ahead by 96-93. The arena was buzzing when J. R. Smith — who scored 14 points in his first appearance after a two-game suspension — received a scoop pass in the other end from James, popped up, hung in the air and drained a 3-pointer with just over 10 seconds remaining, tying the game at 96-96 and stupefying the crowd.

Then came Rose’s heroics. With three seconds to go, Rose received an inbounds pass from Mike Dunleavy and swerved along the top of the 3-point arc, losing Iman Shumpert, who had been chasing him. Rose encountered Tristan Thompson, so he stopped short and flung up his shot from 26 feet. It looped through the air, banged off the glass and through the rim as the buzzer blared through the building, sending he crowd into a frenzy.

“I don’t mean to sound cocky, but that’s a shot you want to take if you are a player in my position,” said Rose, who had to improvise the shot after the team’s original play fell apart.

Stormy weather and obstinate traffic combined to stall the Cavaliers’ pregame caravan to the arena. It was 5:55 p.m. — far later than usual for a 7 o’clock game — when James finally led his teammates off the bus and into the locker room.

“No excuses,” James said when asked if the delay had contributed to the roughshod play. “It just threw our routine off a little bit, but there’s no excuse at all.”

Whatever the reason, both teams were sloppy at the start. The game was scoreless for 1 minute 11 seconds, until James made a pair of free throws, and the teams combined to miss 10 shots before Jimmy Butler (20 points, 8 rebounds) swooped to the rim for a reverse layup. It took 4:17 until Rose made the second field goal of the game on a soft floater — the teams were a combined 2 for 18 from the field at that point.

The Bulls finished the game with a 37.8 percentage from the field. The Cavaliers shot 39 percent.

And it was testy throughout. Minutes into the third quarter, James and Noah (4 points, 11 rebounds) needed to be separated after James spun to the baseline and rose for a one-handed dunk. Upon his descent back to the floor, James started at Noah, who then voiced his objection in a hail of unkind words. Both players received technical fouls.

James said his dunk and stare were his way of retaliating to some trash-talking Noah had directed at him on a previous play: “I think the words he used to me were just a little bit too far,” said James, noting that he generally respected Noah’s spirit. “I’m a father with three kids, and it got very disrespectful.”

It was a generally rough game, though Cleveland Coach David Blatt noted that it never got dirty. Blatt revealed afterward that Kyrie Irving — who had 11 points and no assists — had been playing with a significant foot injury. Pau Gasol of the Bulls left the game in the third quarter with a sore left hamstring.

The Cavaliers had received a dual lift before the game: Shumpert, who sustained a right groin strain in Game 2, was cleared to play, and Smith returned to the team after a two-game suspension. It was the first game in 12 days for Smith, who characterized the forced absence as excruciating.

“Watching the games at home, knowing the camaraderie we have before and after games and not being on the floor, it was by far the lowest point,” Smith, who was punished for swinging his elbow at Jae Crowder of the Boston Celtics in Round 1, said before the game. “I felt I let the team down.”

It seemed like Smith had fully redeemed himself when his late, game-tying 3-pointer fell through the net.

Then Rose intervened.



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