Bulls 93, Mavericks 83 — FINAL
MAGIC NUMBER TO CLINCH HOMECOURT:
MAGIC NUMBER TO CLINCH DIVISION:
The question that Bulls fans wanted to know prior to the last 25 games was if Derrick Rose was going to play or not. Well he returned on national television Saturday night and help power the Bulls past the Mavericks to compete an unlikely rebound from Thursday’s loss to the Heat.
The unlikely part came in as the Wizards, the team that caused the Bulls such problems in their quest to clinch by beating them on Monday, beat the Heat Saturday.
Rose’s return was the story for Bulls fans who are convinced already that Chicago will win the No. 1 seed in the East. But the No. 1 seed is meaningless without a healthy Rose in the lineup and this is pretty much universally known. Rose did feel pain in his ankle but to him the pain was worth the return, the victory and invigorating feeling he gets when the United Center crowd screams his name.
“It was throbbing a little.” Rose said. ”But the great thing about it is we got the win and we get a couple of days off to get treatment and I’m going to stay off my feet and hopefully it’s going to get better.”
Rose had missed 26 games due to various injuries this year, the majority of that time coming within the last month.
But with the MVP’s return to the lineup, Chicago was at full strength for the first time since February (and if you consider Rose returning two Thursdays ago against the Heat as full strength then you are in a very very small minority). In his triumphant return, Rose scored 11 points and dished 8 assists, which seems low but considering he scored 2 points in his last game this is very encouraging to see. The problem with Rose was no one knew if the rust could be shaken off the steel but it can and is on it’s way to being so.
“I think he played a very controlled type game. He was taking care of the ball, running the offense and just trying to get a feel for being out there again,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said.
But Luol Deng was another, if not the player, who stepped up the most against the Mav’s. Deng has been the center of harsh criticism since the All-Star Break as his numbers have dipped sharply and his play int he clutch hasn’t been what it was. Deng turned in a 22 point, 6 rebound performance in an insane 43 minutes in the court.
Deng may not have been playing up to snuff, but he has been bomb shelled with minutes form Tom Thibodeau.
After a nasty night rebounding against the Heat on Thursday, the Bulls –well the rebounded (that’s a double pun and none of you thought of it). Joakim Noah went for 14 rebound and Carlos Boozer added 10 of his own as Chicago out-hustled 46-43 in rebounds.
Yet another beacon of light in the Bulls play Saturday was Rip Hamilton and his 19 points. Hamilton couldn’t get anything going other then Dwyane Wade’s temper on Thursday which brought about questions regarding the Bulls scoring options. Hamilton listened and promptly gave the critics a look at his middle finger– the finger he put his championship ring on that night– and shut them up.
Hamilton’s play was encouraging for the very reason it should have been, he proved he can score when everyone else is doing it and he can nearly lead them in the process. had Derrick Rose truly been 100 percent on Saturday the Bulls easily eclipse 110 points and put an even harsher beating on the defending champs.
The Bulls got a second straight taste of playoff style basketball with the Mavericks coming to town which not only shows they have what it takes to close out the Eat, but they have what it takes to rebound from a demoralizing loss and win against a contender. Now that we sit two Bulls games away from the playoffs, this style of play and that mentality will have to kick in overdrive if the Bulls want to avoid the outcome they endured last season.
All Chicago needs to do is win, they control their own destiny in terms of getting the No. 1 seed in the East and the all important home court advantage. They will clinch it with their next win or a loss on Sunday by the Heat.
But the Bulls are getting back to where they should have been all season long at the end of the season. Rose is shaking off the rust, Hamilton is putting up numbers he should be and the team is gelling from the top down. The question now is, how long can it and will it last?