Tomorrow, on October 29, 2013, at about 7 p.m. central time, Derrick Rose will take the court for the Chicago Bulls in a game that counts for the first time in one day more than 18 months. And he will do it against the Miami Heat. Against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and the assorted cast of characters that make up the rest of the Heat’s roster. That only seems right.
Rose’s impending return has made me nostalgic, so I’ve found myself periodically falling into wormholes on YouTube, looking up highlights from before he got hurt. In doing so last week, I stumbled across the entirety of the Bulls 103-82 win over the Heat in game one of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. You know the one, don’t play dumb.
I considered doing a full running diary of the game before deciding that would be impractical. Instead, here are some general observations.
Right off the bat, it is disconcerting to note that Keith Bogans, Mike Bibby and Joel Anthony all started this game. The Heat hadn’t really settled into their small ball identity back then, so they spend a lot of time with two traditional big men on the court. Consequently, they don’t really resemble the Heat of today in terms of style. For instance, at halftime, a graphic flashed up on the screen informing the audience that the Heat were 0/2 from beyond the arc. That just feels wrong when you think about the Heat now. By contrast, the Bulls of 2011 look remarkably similar to the Bulls of today, although their 2011 offense tends to be incredibly stagnant. I’d forgotten how bad it was, honestly.
I hadn’t realized how much I missed the Bench Mob until I watched this game. The Bulls took control of a close game in the third quarter behind their starters, but it was the bench that turned it into a blowout in the fourth quarter by simply refusing to let the Heat score. The Bulls bench will be solid this year, but it isn’t as deep as it was in 2011, and it doesn’t have the same ferociousness the original Bench Mob did. Alas.
Maybe it was just because he spent the preseason in attack mode overdrive, but Rose’s aggressiveness, or the lack thereof, kind of caught me off guard. He took a lot of jumpers and didn’t get to the rim nearly as much as you might expect. The Heat did a really good job of cutting off his driving lanes, and that’s a big reason why they ended up winning the series.
All that aside, however, that game made me the happiest I’ve ever been as a sports fan, before or since. Taj Gibson’s MONSTER putback dunk in the final minute — preceded by some beautiful ball movement to get CJ Watson a wide open three — remains the most perfect exclamation point ever put on a game. And that’s without even mentioning his dunk on Dwyane Wade’s face.
Here’s to hoping we get something similar tomorrow night, eh?