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LeBron shuts down Rose at end of MVP matchup


This news story was published on January 30, 2012.
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By Dave Hyde, Sun Sentinel –

MIAMI — What a day. What a game. What a stage for the one real rivalry in the East — Heat vs. Bulls — that delivered such full-court emotion, Chicago guard Derrick Rose stood by his locker afterward and …

What the …

What’s he …

Tears?

(PHOTO: The Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose drives to the basket past Miami Heat defender Chris Bosh during game action at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Sunday, January 29, 2012. The Heat defeated the Bulls, 97-93.)

‘Give me one,” Rose said, eyes welling up, of the two foul shots he missed with 22.7 seconds left in the Heat’s 97-93 win. “I missed both of those. … Come on.”

A year ago, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra admitted players were crying in the locker room after a loss to Chicago to offer how much they cared. The idea became another laughtrack of that Heat time. Crygate, it was labeled.

There was no laughing around Crygate II. And that’s fine. It was that kind of a game. Everyone felt emotional. Dwyane Wade slapped away Chicago’s Joakim Noah after a hard foul to cause one scrum.

LeBron James missed two foul shots immediately after Rose and demanded to take a jump ball after an inadvertent whistle with 16.8 seconds left as penance.

“I’ve got it,” the 6-foot-8 James told the 6-11 Chris Bosh.

He won the tip against 6-9 Taj Gibson.

“I had to,” LeBron said. “I missed those foul shots.”

Mostly, this game allowed you to squint past January and see into May, when they’ll meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. And, just like last May when the Heat won in five games, Sunday reduced to LeBron against Rose.

Bosh had his nice moments as his 24-point, 12-rebound game showed. Wade shot 4 of 16 against old/new rival Rip Hamilton, saying he didn’t want to comment why he was off because, “I don’t want to get fined.”

But this was LeBron vs. Rose, MVP to MVP, in the final moments. Rose remains Chicago’s one-man orchestra. Through 3 ½ quarters, he had 31 points, most in highlight-reel fashion.

Then with 7:14 left and the Heat up two points, LeBron entered the fourth quarter.

Just like last year’s playoffs, he covered Rose. And, just like that, Rose’s effectiveness stopped.

Against the bigger, stronger LeBron, Rose couldn’t find the space to drive. He made one of his final five shots. The one was crucial, a fast-break jumper in which he was fouled. The free throw brought Chicago to 94-93 with 49.1 to play.

“Every time we pulled away, he brought them back,” LeBron said.

LeBron brought some good Sunday drama. He rode his bike to the game as his Coconut Grove roads were closed for the Miami marathon. He took an alley-oop from Wade for his own highlight dunk on John Lucas III.

But just as Rose was feeling a burden in these final minutes, James was, too. He had one possession out of a timeout where the Heat appeared to run nothing and James missed an off-balance 19-foot shot.

On the next possession, he drove into traffic and missed a nine-foot shot. It wasn’t like he was invisible in the fourth quarter as he had nine points, four rebounds and played the game-altering defense on Rose.

He wasn’t asked to win the game alone in the manner Rose was. Ultimately, with 9.9 seconds left and Chicago down by two points, Rose had one final shot. He drove into Udonis Haslem and missed badly on a 14-foot shot.

But just as Rose had a chance to alter the game before that with two foul shots that he missed, LeBron did, too. James uncharacteristically cut off a thought that suggested the fourth-quarter ghosts were haunting him.

“People who know the game don’t ask that,” he said

Still, it was bugging him enough that an hour after the game, he tweeted: “C’mon, #6 make your d*mn free-throws!”

It was that kind of day. Enough basketball theater to enjoy. But also enough questions to look forward to when these two teams play for the East in May.

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