In his last game before traveling to California to represent the Eastern Conference in the upcoming All-Star showdown, The Bulls' Derrick Rose showed why he was more than worthy of being the East's starting point guard this season. Rose shredded the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs for a career-high 42 points on 18-28 shooting, shedding defenders for open top-of-the-key jumpers, finding impossible angles under the basket for layups and putbacks, and swooping in on the fast break for some devastating transition buckets. Rose's career-high night--and you get the feeling it won't be his career-high for long--helped the Bulls defeat the visiting Spurs in Chicago, 109-99.
The crowd chanted "M! V! P!" for Rose all second half, not just at free throws but at dead balls and even in half-court sets, and after the game he had tonight, it's pretty hard to deny him at least some consideration.
Rose is averaging nearly 25 points and over eight assists a game, while averaging career highs in rebounding, free-throw shooting, three-point shooting and steals. No less an authority than the Chuckster anointed Rose as the MVP for the first half of the season, and though there are still some other convincing candidates--including the Mavs' Dirk Nowitzki, who had a not-so-shabby 35 points in Dallas's victory in the late game--Rose might now be going into the break as the front-runner.
Perhaps the most convincing line on Rose's resume, though, would have to be the play of the Bulls at large. Chicago is now 39-16 for the season, just two games behind the Celtics and Heat for first place in the Eastern Conference, despite Rose being the team's lone All-Star representative. The Bulls have suffered from frontcourt maladies all season, first to newly-signed high-scoring power forward Carlos Boozer, then to defensive anchor and team leader Joakim Noah, but Rose has kept the ship steady all season, and the team enters the break as possibly the hottest team in the league, winners of five straight.
All that said, I'd still rather the Sixers face the Bulls in the first round than the C's or Heat. Nonetheless, there's no doubt at this point that Chicago is not to be trifled with, and that Derrick Rose is one of the league's new great superstars.