Forget about the neck stiffness that almost postponed Derrick Rose’s homecoming. Forget about all those missed shots, too.
Rose made the only play that mattered Thursday night, and it was just like old times for the Chicago Bulls.
Rose connected on a baseline floater with 5.7 seconds left to lift Chicago to an 82-81 victory over the New York Knicks in his first home game since he injured his left knee 18 months ago.
"That’s what builds your resume," Rose said. "Leaves a mark on your legacy."
The 2011 NBA MVP had 18 points on 7-of-23 shooting and committed four turnovers. But there was no doubt who was getting the ball after Tyson Chandler went 1 for 2 at the line to give New York an 81-80 lead with 10.8 seconds remaining.
Rose, who was a game-time decision for Chicago’s home opener due to an achy neck, got the ball on the wing, drove to the baseline and lofted a well-placed floater over the 7-foot Chandler and Raymond Felton for the go-ahead basket, drawing a standing ovation from the delirious crowd of 22,022.
"I was right there. He just made a big-time play," Chandler said. "I don’t know if he saw the basket to be honest with you."
New York had one last chance but Carmelo Anthony missed a long jumper. Anthony then stood with his hands on his hips as the Bulls celebrated.
"I got the look I wanted," Anthony said.
Chicago had just two field goals in the final period — both by Rose — and committed six turnovers in the last 12 minutes. But it still managed to equal a franchise record with its sixth consecutive win in home openers.
Luol Deng had 17 points and Carlos Boozer finished with 14 as the Bulls beat the Knicks for the sixth straight time.
"It’s tough when you go into a game and you don’t know who you have," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "That’s all part of it. It’s the start of the season. As long as we are putting everything into each and every day and strive for improvement, it will work out."
New York coach Mike Woodson opted for a bigger look against Chicago, inserting 7-foot Andrea Bargnani into the starting lineup and using guard Pablo Prigioni as a reserve. But the Bulls still enjoyed a 46-24 advantage in points in the paint and a 48-42 rebounding edge, led by Joakim Noah’s 15 boards.
"We competed tonight. It says a lot for our club," Woodson said. "Now I just need to do a better job getting us through down the stretch."
Amar’e Stoudemire made his season debut for the Knicks and had five points in 11 minutes. The power forward, who turns 31 on Nov. 16, is coming off minor knee surgery over the summer and looked as if the years of health problems had robbed him of much of his athleticism.
"Very pleased with how I felt tonight, as far as my body," he said. "Just going to continue to keep building and keep getting better."
New York trailed 76-66 with 7:53 remaining, but rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. made a 3-pointer to spark a 12-0 run for the Knicks. Felton connected from long range, Iman Shumpert had a dunk and Anthony closed out the spurt with a turnaround jumper that put New York in front with 4:10 remaining.
The last part of the game mostly consisted of turnovers and missed shots, but Chicago managed to survive behind Rose.
"He showed a lot of toughness," Thibodeau said. "It was a struggle early on in the game. He found his way at the start of the third, that got him a little lift."
Jimmy Butler finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds for Chicago, which lost 107-95 at NBA champion Miami in its season opener on Tuesday night.
Anthony led New York with 22 points on 8-of-24 shooting. Chandler had 19 rebounds, but the Knicks were unable to open the season with consecutive victories on consecutive nights. They were coming off a 90-83 victory against Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Wearing strips of black tape on either side of his achy neck, Rose received a thunderous ovation from the sellout crowd when he was the last player introduced during the pregame festivities. He showed no outward emotion as he ran out of the tunnel with fans waving glowing red sticks in celebration of the return of the Chicago native.
After Rose got on the court, chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" rang out from the seats at the United Center.
It was Rose’s first real game at the Bulls’ longtime home since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the first game of the 2012 playoffs against Philadelphia. What followed was a long and arduous rehabilitation process that raised questions about Rose’s toughness when he was unable to return last season.
That whole "Will he or won’t he play" episode was long forgotten when he took the court against the Knicks, taking a quick moment to blow a kiss toward the luxury boxes before tipoff.
The speedy point guard was just 2 for 11 from the field in the first half, but Deng had 12 points to help Chicago to a 43-38 lead at the break.
"I’m not going to continue missing shots that I’m missing," Rose said, pointing to what he thinks will be even better days ahead. "I work too hard."
NOTES: Chicago improved to 27-21 in home openers, including a 12-8 record at the United Center. … Hardaway provided a spark as a reserve, finishing with 10 points.