Op-Ed: NBA playoffs preview: Melo spoils Rose's return to Bulls' lineup

Posted Apr 8, 2012 by Layne Weiss
Sunday was Derrick Rose's first game after a groin injury that left him sidelined for 12 straight games. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose playing would be a game time decision.
But the 2011 MVP saw things a bit differently, and said it wasn't Thibodeau's decision to make.
"It's not really up to him. It's up to me," Rose said. "If I'm feeling good, I'm going to play. If I feel I need some more days, I'll take some more days. More than likely, I'll be out there."
And he was. With 29 points in one of the most exciting, back and forth, games of the season.
The Knicks' Carmelo Anthony spoiled Rose's return with a game-high 43 points. Down 88-91, Melo shot a 3-pointer with only 11.2 seconds left taking the game to OT.
OT was just as exciting as the rest of the game. Rose gave his team a 99-95 lead with 2:52 left in OT, but the remaining baskets were scored by the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony who was an absolute powerhouse Sunday.
In the end, a 3-pointer from Melo led to a Knicks victory.
Rose started Sunday's game alongside Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah. This is the first time that lineup has played together since March 5 in Indiana.
Even without their star player, the Bulls have the highest url= t=_blank]record in the NBA right now. Will having him back make a huge difference? The Knicks are missing Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, and Baron Davis is playing with a really tight hamstring.
Despite injuries plaguing the Knicks, however, they led the Bulls by 21 at the half, but the Bulls fought back. Hard.
But it wasn't enough. In the end, Melo was just too tough, and the Knicks won in OT 100-99.
The interesting thing about all this is the Knicks are currently the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.
So it's very likely we'll see these teams meet in what will undoubtedly be an extremely exciting series. I wouldn't be surprised if the series went to 7 games, especially if Carmelo Anthony continues to play this way. Even without Jeremy Lin, who has said he feels good, but probably won't be back in time to play in the first round, and perhaps without Amare Stoudemire, who has been trying to work his way back from a back injury, the Knicks are one of those 8th seeded teams we should watch out for.
It's happened before. In 2007, the Golden State Warriors, who placed 8th in the Western Conference, made history, by dismantling the 1st place team, the Dallas Mavericks. This led to the firing of Mavs coach, Avery Johnson.
In 2011, the #1 San Antonio Spurs, were destroyed by a young, ravenous #8 team, the Memphis Grizzlies.
Will the 2012 Eastern Conference first-round playoffs be the same? IF Sunday's game is any indication, maybe. Both the Knicks and Bulls are fighting hard. Both have a lot to prove.
Tuesday night, we get a rematch. This might mean for the players than for us, but if Tuesday's game is anything close to this, we're in for a treat! This is how basketball is meant to be. The other night Charles Barkley said something along the lines of if you don't enjoy watching the Bulls, you don't enjoy basketball. Something close to that. And it's true. Despite all the drama and uncertainty the NBA lockout caused, basketball is fun again.
Personally, I believe this is the Bulls' year to go to the NBA Finals. I believe the OKC Thunder will win that series in 7, but it will be tough and grueling, and just plain amazing.
And I believe the Knicks will rock the Bulls in the 1st round, push them to the limit, but it won't be enough.
This is one of the best games I've seen. Ever. Both teams are playing with determination and focus, and it's incredible to see.
Of course, there's still a good chance that the Bucks could take the #8 spot. The intrigue and excitement surrounding all this makes it just a really wonderful time to be a basketball fan.