The familiar pressures: Being the hometown kid, the savior. Dealing with floundering teammates, not ready for the moment. Carrying an entire city’s championship expectations on your shoulders.
Before the series started, Rose told reporters it was “us against the world.”
Substitute “me” for “us” and “Heat” for “world” and the quote becomes a bit more accurate.
Now finding himself in a 2-1 hole after last night’s double digit loss, Rose is getting a taste of just how difficult it can be in the playoffs when you’re the primary, and too often sole, creator.
It’s something James experienced time and time again during his seven-year Cleveland tenure.
Those Cavalier teams were regular season juggernauts, flying through opponents on the back of LeBron’s ability to score and create quality shots for role players.
The team went as he did.
That approach can work when the stakes aren’t too high. A November game against Milwaukee, sure.
But game three of the Eastern Conference finals? Good luck.
It took painful season-ending defeats against deeper Orlando and Boston teams for James to realize he not only needed a second scorer, but a second creator for when teams loaded up on him.
Rose is learning that lesson. Sure, this Bulls team is probably deeper than those Cavalier teams with better role players, but it still relies far too heavily on the 22-year-old Rose.
It makes them predictable.
Miami was able to stifle Chicago’s offense by simply keeping two defenders and five sets of eyes on Rose whenever he crossed half court.
Even an unexpected strong performance from Carlos Boozer didn’t make a difference.
Rose again struggled, shooting 8-for-19 and scored only two points in the fourth quarter.
The regular season MVP is now shooting below 40 percent for the series and Chicago has lost consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 7.
James experienced similar growing pains. Like Rose, when James was 22, he made his first deep playoff push.
That Cleveland team made it to the Finals, before getting swept by a deeper, more experienced San Antonio Spurs team.
The Spurs kept James at bay by using double teams to keep him away from the rim.
The result? James was limited to just 35 percent shooting for the series.
TWO AND A HALF MEN?
Miami is a different entity altogether. It can dissect the best defenses in innumerable ways.
Last night, Wade struggled as much as Rose did and James only took 13 shots, yet the Heat still won by 11.
It’s the luxury of having multiple All-Stars.
Considering how much flak Chris Bosh has taken, it’s almost as if people forget he was a 24-10 guy last year and the face of a franchise for just as long as Wade and James were.
Now, after two strong performances, Bosh is actually the Heat’s leading scorer in this series.
After struggling against Boston’s Kevin Garnett last round, Bosh has kept Chicago’s defenders off-balance, especially Joakim Noah.
Noah, who made the All-NBA defensive second team this year, simply couldn’t handle Bosh.
His profanity-laden interaction with a courtside fan was indicative of his frustration.
When Bosh was asked if Boozer’s “Big Two” comments motivated him, he responded in typical even-keeled fashion.
"Not really," Bosh told the Chicago Tribue. "We've been through so much in the regular season that comments really don't affect me too much. I just go out there and try to be aggressive”
Wade seems to think Boozer’s comments perhaps motivated Bosh more than he’s letting on.
"I was glad he said that about Chris... He's responded to it," Wade told reporters after the game.
STILL NOT OVER
As convincing as the Heat have looked the last two games, it would be silly to think that this series is anywhere close to decided.
Miami only won one of its two home games and the Bulls could still do exactly what the Heat did in Chicago: win the second game.
Considering just how hard fought the games have been, there remains a feeling that this series could still wind up going the distance.
Still, it’s easy to see why Heat fans are walking around with their chests puffed out.
Going into Tuesday’s game, the Heat is undefeated (7-0) at home.
The crowd, often criticized for arriving late and leaving early, can at last hang its collective hat on something.
Some even hung around after the game to heckle the TNT post-game crew, specifically Charles Barkley.
Like anything affiliated with this team, that too was not without controversy.
As uncertain as things are in this series, there’s one thing you can probably count on: the next postgame show will probably be inside, not outside, the arena.