Wednesday night's New York Knicks victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series saw Derrick Rose defeat his detractors as much as any defender he faced.
After years of coaches, pundits and fans wondering if Rose could still play big minutes in big games, the 32-year-old dropped a team-high 26 points in 39 minutes to seal a 101-92 win and even the series at 1-1.
"Man, I've been dreaming about this moment for a long time," Rose told Ernie Johnson on the TNT broadcast after the win. "In the past, people said I couldn't play the minutes, they was worried about it, but I knew all along how much hard work I'd put into it."
Rose played 38 minutes in New York's Game 1 loss, but it was hardly comparable to what the Knicks asked him to do in Game 2.
Faced with a 57-44 halftime deficit, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau announced Rose would start the third quarter while addressing the team in the locker room. That was the spark both Rose and the Knicks needed.
After Julius Randle went 0-for-6 from the floor in the first half—the most misses without a make in any half of his career—Rose got the Most Improved Player-winner involved right away, finding him for an open three-pointer. Rose factored into eight of the first 12 Knicks points of the third quarter.
“I’m just very blessed and fortunate to be in this situation," Rose said. "I always live by the five P's: proper preparation prevents poor performance, and I'm always making sure I'm prepared."
That preparation helped the Knicks rally back from down 15 in the postseason for the first time since 2000.
As the 2011 MVP continues to evolve his game to stay relevant in today's NBA, Rose has proven he still has the tools to contribute to a playoff run. Wednesday gave him the opportunity to show it on the national stage.