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By Sam Smith | 4.22.2015 | 9:05 a.m. CT
So, how do you like me now?
Well, that’s not exactly how Derrick Rose phrased it after Bulls practice Tuesday following the Bulls going ahead 2-0 in the first round playoff series with the Milwaukee Bucks.
“It’s all about the team,” Rose told reporters of his favored philosophy. “I could care less about myself and how I’m performing. As long as we get the win, as long as everybody is playing well and we get the victory, that’s the only thing we care about. (We) started off kind of sluggish in the first half (ahead 39-38), but you’ve got to find ways to win in the playoffs. That’s the great thing about it.
“I could have gone 0-for-35, 40,” added Rose. “As long as we get the win I could care less about the way I shot. We won. A lot of people picked up the slack with Jimmy (Butler) and Pau (Gasol) and everybody else making hustles plays.”
The Bulls, as they know, have hardly accomplished anything yet with Game 3 Thursday in Milwaukee.
The Bulls won two home games, basically just what they are expected to do. Especially against a .500 team and lower seed. And the Bulls finally have demonstrated a home court advantage with their ninth consecutive win in the United Center, where the Bulls after a slow start there have not lost since March 9.
There have been the terrific performances by Jimmy Butler, leading the team in scoring at 28 for the two games with back to back playoff career bests. Though the Bucks have held down Gasol with defensive pressure, he and Joakim Noah are combining to average 29.5 rebounds per game, 15 for Noah. Mike Dunleavy and Aaron Brooks are both making at least half their threes and the Bulls are holding the Bucks to 37 percent shooting.
But what makes it all work is the play of Rose.
Not necessarily because he is scoring, which has been adequate at 19 per game. Not only because he’s moved the ball so well with eight assists per game and shot 38.5 percent on three pointers.
It’s, as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau often says, the presence of Rose that draws so much defense; then Butler gets better shots, the rebounders get better runs to the rim, the ball moves more fluidly.
“I actually liked the way he (Rose) responded,” Thibodeau said about Rose’s first half zero for seven shooting. “He missed some shots early. But then as the game went along his rebounding was a big plus, his play making was a big plus and then all of a sudden he started to knock shots down. I thought he showed a lot of toughness to get through that. As a team we weren’t playing well. He sort of got everyone going and then he got himself going.”
Rose had an excellent all around game with nine assists and seven rebounds, and even more impressive hustle plays like early in the first quarter sprinting full court to actually get in front of a fast break and make the steal.
“(Derrick should) run the team,” said Thibodeau. “I don’t want him to just put his head down and drive to the rim every time. I want him to have that balance of his paint attacks, his rim attacks, medium range shots, the open three if it’s coming out of the post. Just play an all around game and when he does that, it’s him bringing the best out of everyone. He makes the game easy for everyone because of all the attention he is going to gather from our opponents. They double team, they are going to load to him, and he’s playmaking. He made a lot of great plays in the game last night.”
The Bulls did have a setback in Monday’s 91-82 win with Nikola Mirotic’s sustaining what was a quadriceps or knee injury. Mirotic did not speak with reporters and was limping at practice, though able to get around on his own. Thibodeau said Mirortic would be sidelined “a few days,” but did not rule him out Thursday. Though it seems given the circumstances almost certain Mirotic won’t play Thursday and maybe not Saturday in Game 4.
Mirotic, though he gave the Bulls an important offensive boost in Game 2, only got extended minutes because of Taj Gibson’s foul trouble. Thibodeau seemed to be leaning more toward using Gibson extensively against the Bucks because of the likelihood of it being more a defensive series. Though you assume Mirotic plays when he is ready, it might make sense to be cautious at this point, especially with the Bucks seeming to settle in on making it a physical game sprinkled with cheap shots.
The Bulls seem ready to play through it, though Mirotic took a couple of blows from Zaza Pachulia, who was ejected. Aaron Brooks and Butler also experienced some less than basketball plays. If you can’t outscore them, then you perhaps sucker them into fighting you. The Bucks clearly need a few of those Bulls scorers off the floor.
But it doesn’t appear like the Bulls are about to fall for it.
“We know how it’s going to be,” said Thibodeau. “I thought our team handled that part well. Whatever way the game goes, we’re going to respond well to it. You have to play aggressively and if the game is called tight you adjust. I don’t want them passive; you have to play with emotion. I don’t want it out of control. I don’t want guys being thrown out, but I want us to play hard, play tough, play together and play smart.”
And playing with Rose, who perhaps made the most important statement of all with 38 minutes and reporting no physical problems the day after.
“I feel good,” said Rose. “I’m real confident in my body and how hard I worked to get back here, and I feel great today. As far as playing those type of minutes every game, we’ll have to see. I know that we have a dangerous team. It just takes us coming out and playing with that aggression right away and everybody following behind. But I don’t have to worry about anything. Just go out and play.’’
“None,” said Rose. “Feeling great.’’
The Bulls like that most about Rose now.