By Cody Westerlund–
MILWAUKEE (CBS) – Derrick Rose took the blame.
His coach and teammates would say afterward that no 48-minute game can be won or lost in a fleeting 1.3 seconds, but Rose has long lived in the spotlight, so he understood. In the playoff crucible, this baffling ending was on him and no one else.
“I messed things up,” Rose lamented after his crunch-time mistakes in Milwaukee’s 92-90 win over Chicago in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center.
After charging back on the strength of a Rose 3-pointer and Pau Gasol 3-point play in the final 65 seconds to tie the Bucks at 90-all, the Bulls found themselves defending a sideline out of bounds with 1.3 seconds remaining. Get a stop, and the game would head to overtime, giving Chicago a chance to sweep the series and rest up for what will surely be a long-awaited reckoning with Cleveland in the second round.
Instead, the Bucks took advantage of the Bulls’ highest-profile player to keep their season alive.
Running Giannis Antetokounmpo to the top of the key to keep three defenders out near the 3-point line, Milwaukee scored the game-winning basket at the buzzer when Rose lost track of Jerryd Bayless, who took a perfect pass toward the far block from Jared Dudley and converted an easy layup just before the horn.
In a mental lapse at the worst of times, Rose committed a cardinal defensive sin: He didn’t stay between his man and the ball when he didn’t have help defense.
“Put that on me,” Rose said. “I just wasn’t paying attention to the ball. They spread out, a great call from (Bucks coach Jason Kidd). If anything, this was a learning experience. I don’t feel bad for myself. I feel bad for my teammates.”
The winning play call from Kidd deserves credit for its brilliance in simplicity. After having the quick thinking to call a timeout with 1.3 seconds left after Khris Middleton stole the ball from a driving Rose and began heading downcourt, Kidd designed a play to get Rose on an island. Presumably, the thinking was that though Rose has battled Michael Carter-Williams with quality on-ball defense this series, he’s also time and again fallen asleep away from the ball.
That’s what the Bucks again exploited with the game on the line. Bayless started on the far right block, made off as if he was headed to the near left corner, then simply stopped and raced back toward the right block.
“Trying to act like I was trying to get to the corner,” Bayless said. “We were hoping he was going to bit, and he bit.”
Added Kidd: “I thought Rose relaxed for a second.”
Despite saying he “wasn’t paying attention to the ball,” Rose appeared to be staring at the inbounder. It was Bayless who he wasn’t paying attention to. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, never one to take defensive breakdowns well, called the ending a “botched” play but largely covered for Rose as well.
“We botched a lot of plays before that,” Thibodeau said.
Rose’s defensive meltdown was far from the Bulls’ only problem Saturday. Their main trouble was a season-high 28 turnovers against the long-armed and nimble Bucks defenders. Those led to a whopping 39 points for Milwaukee.
Rose too was the genesis of that problem too, as he committed a game-high eight turnovers. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting Saturday, adding six assists, this subpar performance coming after he’d strung together two big offensive nights and a quality all-around floor game in the first three contests.
“We had (28) turnovers,” Rose said. “I think I had like 20 of them.”
Rose’s most costly turnover was his final one that Middleton stole to set up the winning basket. Thibodeau tried to call a timeout on the final possession, but the referees never heard him, Gasol said. It ended with the Bulls having little direction and a help defender clogging up the path for Rose, who went nowhere off the dribble before his penultimate miscue.
“If we had a good look at it and Derrick had an opportunity, we let him get it,” Thibodeau said. “In that situation, I don’t mind Derrick having the ball in the open floor. If he sees something, nine times out of 10 he’s going to make a great play. Didn’t work out for us this time.”
Moments later, as the winning bucket dropped, a smiling Bayless walked to the court-side seats to celebrate with Bucks fans. Hands on his hips, Rose retreated slowly toward the Bulls bench with his head down.
Up 3-1 with Game 5 awaiting Monday at the United Center, the Bulls remain fully in control of the series. But they knew they wasted a brilliant 33-point performance from Jimmy Butler and squandered a chance for more rest, which a banged-up and team with a few aging centerpieces could’ve used.
“Devastating, but we get to play again,” Rose said, summing up the night.
“Can’t believe it.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.