It wasn’t win or go home for Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls against the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night, but it was as close as it gets.
And when it came down to it, Derrick Rose simply was not up for the challenge.
He’s electrifying. He’s spectacular. He’s incredible.
But in the fourth quarter Tuesday night, he was irrelevant.
He’s fast. He’s agile. He’s dynamic.
But he’s young and he’s not playoff tested.
Rose’s performance in the fourth quarter and in overtime of the Bulls’ 101-93 loss to the Heat just proves he’s not ready to hoist a team onto his shoulders and carry them to a title.
He’ll be ready, and likely soon, but not right now.
Rose was 8-for-27 from the field and 1-for-9 from three-point range in Game 4. He scored 23 points, but he turned the ball over seven times.
But his late-game performance tells the real story.
Having hit five consecutive free throws, Rose went to the line with 1:10 left in the fourth quarter down by one and with a chance to take the lead. He missed the first free throw, and he did so with obvious disgust. To his credit, he tied the game with the next free throw, but after missing what would could have prevailed as the game-winning free throw, his struggles would continue.
On the Bulls’ following possession, Rose was isolated with LeBron James one-on-one in a tie game. With under 30 seconds left and after a couple of drive fakes, he pulled up for a Dirk Nowitzki-esque step-back jumper, but it rimmed out.
After James committed an offensive foul to give the Bulls the ball with eight seconds left in regulation, Rose was isolated with James once again with a chance to win the game and send the series back to Chicago tied at two.
But he failed again. This time, he threw up a 15-footer that was nearly an airball.
Then, in overtime, on the Bulls’ first possession and with the shot clock winding down, Rose got blocked by James, and the Heat run was on.
With just over a minute left in overtime and down by four, Rose had another opportunity to bring his team back. He drove to the basket, but as he crossed the free-throw line and the defense collapsed, he tried to pass, turning the ball over once again at a critical juncture.
Rose has had at least 20 points in every game in this series, but in Chicago’s last three losses, he is 2-for-13 in the fourth quarter and overtime with James guarding him.
And it’s fitting that, as James dropped the layup that all but sealed the Bulls’ fate in overtime, the television announcer began praising him for his late-game heroics in this series as Rose drove down the court.
As the commentator called James “The Closer” on the telecast, Rose simultaneously drove to the basket on the other end and was blocked again as the overtime period wound down.
And that was it.
With the loss, the Bulls fall into a 3-1 hole and the Heat are one game away from taking the next step in shutting the world up and taking home an NBA title.
Rose, meanwhile, has a long plane ride home to think about how he and the Bulls can come back and win the series, but it won't be easy. It'll take skill. It'll take heart. It'll take guts.
It'll take a level of expertise and experience Rose just might not have yet.
Can it be done? Certainly.
But Derrick Rose showed in Game 4 that he doesn’t have what it takes to lift a team to that next level.
At least not today.