The NBA’s MVP went through a full practice Tuesday, one day after twisting his left ankle in the closing seconds of a 103-95 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Rose expected to be ready for Game 2 on Wednesday and it looks like he will be.
The top seed after winning a league-leading 62 games, Chicago simply delivered a dud in Game 1 after being pushed in a tough five-game series by Indiana in the opening round. Now, they’re in a hole against a team that hadn’t won a second-round game since the 1990s.
“A lot of people have written us off even before the series began, and we’ve been there before,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “Now that we’ve been in these situations enough times, we respond totally different to them. We don’t listen to what’s being said. We look at and pay attention to details now a little bit better than we have in the past. I do believe that this team is a little bit more hungry.”
The Bulls figured Atlanta was a threat and for one night, anyway, they were right.
The Bulls‘ defense and rebounding that set the tone during the regular season were nowhere to be found, and the offense never really found its rhythm with its star delivering an uncharacteristically passive performance.
Yes, Rose finished with 24 points and 10 assists, but he settled at times for jumpers rather than his electrifying drives and wound up going 11 for 27 from the field after missing his first seven shots.
It was hardly an MVP performance on a night when news broke that he was getting the award. That was hardly shocking the way he dominated during the season, but his showing in Game 1 was a bigger surprise.
Asked if he could remember the last time he didn’t attempt a free throw, Rose said, “Probably my rookie year or something like that.”
Actually, it happened three times during the season. Then again, a short memory might not be such a bad thing for him in this case.
Rose was being guarded primarily by Jeff Teague, an occasional starter who played a total of nine minutes over two appearances in the opening round against Orlando. He started because Kirk Hinrich is likely out for the series with a hamstring strain.
Rose didn’t take advantage of Teague, who had 10 points of his own and five assists and just one turnover.
“I don’t know how much talking the coaches did to him, but I know I was in his (ear), letting him know how important this moment was and how he had to seize it,” Josh Smith said. “If he had to get on anybody, police anybody, do it. We’ll respect what he’s saying because he’s the floor general.”
They also outrebounded Chicago 38-37 and outhustled the Bulls for loose balls. Put simply, they looked like a team that belonged and not one that came in with an 0-15 second-round streak.
“We’ve gotten to the second round in the past and pretty much gotten embarrassed,” Johnson said. “It was sense of pride and a sense of urgency that we had last night. We’re going to continue to try to play with the energy and intensity we had in Game One, we’re going to bring it to Game Two.”
They’re also bracing for more from Rose.
“I’m sure he’s going to come out with a lot more aggression,” Johnson said. “We’re going to be prepared for it, we’re going to try to do whatever it takes to just kind of slow down. It’s going to be tough.”