A number of things went right for the New York Knicks in their comeback Game 2 victory over the Atlanta Hawks but none stand out more than the play of Derrick Rose.
Back on the playoff stage for the first time in three seasons, the 32-year-old Rose finished with 26 points (on 9-for-21 shooting), four rebounds and four assists while seeing nearly 39 minutes of action.
Call it "vintage" or "virtuoso" but it showed that the Knicks won't win this series without the former MVP maintaining a similar level of play.
After coming off of the bench in the first half, Rose was on the floor from the onset of the second half, playing alongside RJ Barrett, Reggie Bullock, Julius Randle and Taj Gibson.
What did that second half entail? Among many other things, Randle emerged from his slump, Bullock caught fire and the Knicks outscored the Hawks 57-35 over the final two frames, including a 30-8 extended run that began midway through the third quarter and gave New York a 10-point lead with just over eight minutes remaining in the game.
While Rose doesn't necessarily deserve all of the credit for each of these momentum shifts, it's no coincidence that things took a turn for the better with him on the floor.
Since the February trade that marked Rose's professional return to New York and a reunion with head coach Tom Thibodeau, he's come off of the bench in all but three games. Yes, he was named a finalist for Sixth Man of the Year, but Rose is easily one of the five best players on New York's roster, a sixth starter so to speak.
And he's definitely the most important.
Rose is one of New York's closers and is truly the fittest to make a play for himself or others, especially when the game is on the line. And while the circumstance has muddled the dynamic with starting point guard Elfrid Payton, it serves as a reminder that who finishes is much more important than who starts.
Game 2 saw Rose shine in the second half, getting Randle involved to get the team on the board before hitting a series of timely shots throughout the final two quarters. Given the growth and changes made in his game in the 10 years since his MVP campaign, what Rose put on display can be replicated in Game 3 and beyond.
From the defence and hustle…
Quick workin' on both ends. pic.twitter.com/qJBrrEmMLY- NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 27, 2021
To plays off the bounce…
Derrick Rose, man. pic.twitter.com/uizFFaZ648- NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 27, 2021
To catch-and-shoot jumpers…
DERRICK ROSE FROM DOWNTOWN.- NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 27, 2021
He's got 22 on the night. Keep pushing. pic.twitter.com/GBwUmWwDfT
Jules puts it up... PUTS IT IN! pic.twitter.com/0keFh65UKk- NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 27, 2021
D-Rose did what he does best all game long. And his floater that ultimately put the Knicks up for good gave me flashbacks to Christmas 2011.
10 years after being the MVP on a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference Finals, Rose finds himself as the most important player on an up-and-coming team with realistic aspirations of advancing past the first round.
It helps that, like in 2011, he's also looking to make noise alongside Gibson and under the leadership of Thibodeau.
The Hawks have found ways to make life difficult for Randle but as the series shifts to Atlanta, their defence must adjust to limit Rose's impact, or else the series could continue to shift in the Knicks' favour.
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