He'd been cold for most of the game, going just 6 for 22 from the floor, but with his Chicago Bullstrailing the New York Knicks by one and 10.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, there wasn't a single soul watching who believed anybody else but Derrick Rose was getting the ball ... and in his first regular-season game back at the United Center since April 2012, Chicago's point guard delivered.
After leading by as many as 13 points, the Bulls trailed 81-80 in the final minute after going ice-cold from the field and allowing the Knicks to rip off a 15-4 run that spanned nearly eight minutes. But Knicks center Tyson Chandler split a pair of free throws at with just under 11 seconds left, leaving the door open for the Bulls to re-take the lead if they could shake their shivers and find an elusive answer.
Rose broke free early on that final possession due to what appeared to be some miscommunication by the Knicks. Point guard Raymond Felton was guarding the inbounds pass (although he had his back to Luol Deng while watching Rose) and Iman Shumpert was unable to get around a sound screen set by Carlos Boozer at the left elbow, allowing Rose to sprint clear to the right wing.
Felton hustled to recover, and Knicks center Tyson Chandler disengaged from Chicago counterpart Joakim Noah to sink to the paint, putting two bodies between Rose and the basket, but after catching with a head of steam, Rose got his spot on the right baseline and uncorked a floater, finding the touch that had seemed to elude him for much of his first two games back from surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in his left knee during the first game of the Bulls' 2012 postseason run.
New York had a chance to tie, getting the ball down a point with just over five seconds left, but a contested Carmelo Anthony 3-pointer was off the mark and Chandler's put-back attempt was unsuccessful, giving the Bulls an 82-81 win in their home opener. Both teams now stand at 1-1 on the year.
Rose finished with a team-high 18 points on 7-for-23 shooting to go with six rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes. Deng added 17 (8 for 15 from the field) plus six assists without a turnover and strong defense on Anthony in 40 minutes of playing time. Noah chipped in 15 rebounds and five assists in the win.
Anthony led the Knicks with a game-high 22 points, albeit on 8-for-24 shooting, to go with six rebounds, six assists, six steals and two blocks. Chandler looked sensational, grabbing 19 rebounds and blocking four shots, and keying a defensive run that held Chicago to just 11 points on 2 for 15 shooting in the fourth quarter of what was, frankly, an ugly game, as the two teams combined to shoot just 38.3 percent from the floor. One of the two makes, though, was the one that gave the Bulls a win in Rose's return. It doesn't mean that the 2010-11 MVP's all the way back, but it still makes for a pretty nice homecoming.