Derrick Rose turned back the clock, delivering a vintage performance on the 10th year anniversary of his historic MVP season.
On May 3, 2011, Rose became the NBA’s youngest MVP at 22 and led the Chicago Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Ten years and several knee injuries later, the 32-year old Rose flashed his old MVP form for a chance to return to the postseason.
Rose dropped season-high 25 points to power the New York Knicks to a 118-104 victory on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.
Back in Memphis, Rose was sensational down the stretch, just like he was during his one-and-done college season with the Tigers culminating in an NCAA Finals appearance.
“Memphis has a special place in my heart. Just coming here creating some [special moments], just feeling the vibrations and we’re winning at the same time, how we build and jumping [in the standings], it feels great,” Rose said.
Rose, who adjusted and expanded his game over the years as injuries robbed him of his athleticism, hit three three-pointers early but went back to his signature daredevil drives when the game was on the line. He put the game to bed with three clutch baskets.
A mid-season acquisition from the Detroit Pistons, Rose made 11 of his 15 shots in 27 minutes off the bench as the Knicks (37-28) clinched their first winning season in eight years.
“We’re playing unselfish. With Ju (Randle), anybody that creates a double-team like that, it should be an easy offense,” said Rose deflecting the credit to their All-Star leader.
Julius Randle continued to make his case for an All-NBA season as he once again led New York with 28 points, six rebounds, and six assists. He came up big when the Knicks needed him the most. Randle overcame a slow start and drilled a crucial three-pointer with the shot clock winding down that kept Memphis at bay.
The Grizzlies staged a ferocious fightback, nearly wiping out a 17-point deficit. Memphis came within five points twice inside the final four minutes.
After a scorching first three quarters, including a season-high 44 points in the second quarter, the Knicks offense suddenly went cold. They bled for only four points in the first 8:02 of the final frame.
Randle, who hit his stride after a 1-of-7 shooting to start the game, made it 104-96 with 3:58 left. Then Rose scored six of the Knicks’ next eight points to seal their third straight win and 12th in their last 13 games.
Rose schooled Grizzlies young star Ja Morant, who was held to eight points on a 2-for-14 shooting. A frustrated Morant reached a boiling point and got ejected with 1:02 left with the Knicks leading by 11. He joined his coach Taylor Jenkins who was also booted out a couple of plays earlier.
D Rose was vintage tonight in the place where it all began for him. A season-high 25 pts and the Knicks have clinched their first winning season in 8yrs. D Rose got a big hug from their staunch supporter & top Knicks executive WWW! pic.twitter.com/VMdNNsHG7o— alder almo (@alderalmo) May 4, 2021
The Knicks played with a thin frontline, but it didn’t matter as the always reliable Taj Gibson more than made up for Nerlens Noel’s absence (ankle injury). Gibson, who will turn 36 next month and was Rose’s teammate with the Bulls, also clocked in a vintage performance. The Brooklyn native contributed six points, 12 rebounds, and a season-high five blocks. Norvel Pelle was also solid as Gibson’s backup. People, who signed a multi-year deal after a couple of 10-day contracts, came away with three swats, two points, and two rebounds in 14 minutes.
Alec Burks’ return from COVID-19 was cut short by an apparent ankle injury after Morant clipped his foot in a loose ball scramble. Burks was playing solid with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting before he went out.
The Knicks continued to wax hot from the outside, sinking 14 of 27 threes.
Three more starters joined Randle in double-digit scoring, with RJ Barrett, Reggie Bullock, and Elfrid Payton adding 15, 13, and 10, in that order.
Their road trip gets tougher from here with Denver on Wednesday, Phoenix on Friday before wrapping it up against the two Los Angeles teams —- Lakers and Clippers.
The crucial victory enabled the Knicks to maintain their 1.5 games lead over the Atlanta Hawks (36-30), who spoiled ex-Knick Carmelo Anthony’s rise to the top 10 of the all-time scoring list with a 123-114 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo