Jake Weiner: I didn’t expect this. I really didn’t. Even with Kevin Love out for the playoffs and JR Smith slated to miss the first two games, I couldn’t see the Bulls taking Cleveland past six. After seeing the Bulls go up 1-0 in both 2011 and 2013, I even assumed we’d do it again before falling to King James. The winner of Game 3 in a 1-1 series goes on to win about 80% of the time. The Cavs destroyed the Bulls in Game 2 and with JR Smith back from suspension, it was time for LeBron to break our hearts once again. Derrick Rose, not insignificantly playing in his ninth playoff game of the season, had a different narrative in mind.
Game 3 was by far the closest game of the series, somehow the only one with lead changes. Winning a playoff game with that tight a margin is about so much more than the final play. Kyrie Irving aggravated his sore foot early on and failed to record an assist; Jimmy Butler played the greatest defensive game of his young career against James; a hamstring injury to Pau Gasol forced Tom Thibodeau into using his lethal smaller lineups (read: NIKO); the referees turned in a preseason performance that heavily skewed toward the road team.
But for at least one day, none of that comes even close to mattering. Derrick Fucking Rose hit Chicago’s first game winning shot in the playoffs since The Great One singlehandedly won Game 6 in 1998. All the setbacks, all the intense rehabilitation, all the nagging doubts…vindicated. Rose got back to the mountaintop last night and did something his team has never done before: win a second playoff game against LeBron. No matter what happens from Game 4 on, we’ll always have The Bank Shot.
Steven Kerstein: Being the piece-of-shit gambler that I am, I usually don’t get into games unless a) my White Sox are involved or b) there is money on the line. Having said this, last night’s performance (obviously) had me jumping out of my seat. To put it simply, Game 3 played out like a cliche sports movie.. Sometimes, we all need a little of the Disney-like Shenanigans in our lives.
While Derrick’s shot will be how we remember Game 3 decades from now, there were a few themes (less obvious) that set up the final moment. The Bulls were +15 in rebounding (54-39), +7 from the line (25-18) and only committed seven turnovers to Cleveland’s 11. If the Bulls can stick to maintaining the edge in these three areas, they should be in good shape. Before I sign off so you can focus your attention to the better writers, I’ll leave you with one final statistic. Derrick only attempted two three-pointers in the first 47:58 of game play. Rose was not settling for the most part and getting to the line. While I’m usually not a proponent of him jacking up copious amounts of triples, I’m sure glad he made time for number three.
Jacob Bikshorn: Up until the moment I saw the ball pass through the hoop and the clock hit all zeros, I figured Game 3 was going to be another heartbreaking postseason loss at the hands of LeBron and Friends, Version 2.0. A first half marred by blown layups and jumpers that popped in and out seemed like an early kiss of death. To leave points on the table against King James is, under normal circumstances, an unforgivable sin. But the ball did pass through the hoop after a brief pit stop at the backboard. Derrick Rose, whose last true playoff run was cut short by LeBron and Friends, Version 1.0, guaranteed that this current clash with LeBron will finally make it at least six games.
Rose’s shot was incredible. The roar that erupted from my living room full of mildly intoxicated dudes could be heard from the street, where our shouts mingled with the countless others around the city. It was like an incredible weight had been lifted off of all of us. The first games against Milwaukee where Rose looked so explosive were reassuring, but those performances didn’t carry the weight of last night.
Last night’s game was not “The Old Rose,” “Vintage Rose,” or “MVP Rose.” But it was the type of performance that this Bulls team, loaded with more offensive talent than any of the Thibodeau era, needs to overcome the superstars in Cleveland. Derrick finished the game with 30 points on 10/26 shooting. While going 38% from the field leaves something to be desired, Rose’s shot chart tells a better story, with the painted area overcrowded with attempts. Rose, who averaged over five three point shots a game during the regular season, limited himself to just three attempts Friday night. And while he only made one, what a one it was.
Drew Hackman: The importance of Game 3 and why I had a healthy mix of jumping, screaming, fist-pumping, and skipping around like a little kid after Derrick hit that shot:
- Derrick had missed his last few isos in previous possessions, including a missed free throw, which were chances he had to extend the lead.
- The Bulls haven’t had a playoff winning buzzer beater since the Jordan era (1997 Finals).
- Derrick needed this.
- We (Bulls fans) needed this.
- LeBron’s teams against the Bulls in recent history have lost Game 1 and then swept the remainder. This curbed that trend.
- So much for “bad” Derrick on one day of rest.
- Jimmy did a great job slowing down LeBron.
- Kyrie aggravated his ankle – another reason the Bulls needed to capitalize with a W.
- JR Smith made his presence known after the suspension was lifted, going 4/8 from three point range. It was important that the Bulls didn’t allow the Cavs to think he’s a difference maker.
- The Bulls did a great job on the boards, despite Tristan Thompson’s unrelenting activity.
- The Bulls have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series tomorrow afternoon at the United Center.
Jeff Berest: So even though LeBron and Kyrie combined shooting just 11/38, the game was pretty much back and forth the entire way. Don’t think the Bulls can count on two of the top ten players in the world putting up another clunker like this one. I’m not saying the Bulls are outclassed by the Cavs, but if they are going to take two of the next four games they got to stay on their A game. Because LeBron will not go softly into the night. Although I would kind of like to see this all blow up in Cleveland’s face; trading Wiggins for Love and then not making it past the second round.
Pau leaving in the middle of the game with an injury was subtly a turning point and may have actually been a blessing in disguise (yikes). The Bulls probably didn’t miss his horrendous and well-documented rim protection. Thibs finally released Nikola Mirotic from bench purgatory, and he was able to be a +19 in 22 minutes. Even though I’m not a Bulls fan, I feel my frustration boiling over when Mirotic isn’t on the floor. It makes no sense at all. He’s such a matchup problem, especially now that the Cavs are without Kevin Love. Thibs has made a conscious effort to not play Mirotic in the playoffs, even though he was one of Bulls best players during the regular season. Like WTF?
The game winner from Derrick Rose was…(insert hyperbolic adjective here). You really have to feel great for him, and the tribulations he’s been through leading up to this point is what makes this such a great moment. He definitely called bank on that shot too. (Editor’s note: He did not, unfortunately). I had zero stake in the game and who won, but I even got up off the couch to cheer for D-Rose after the shot.