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Bulls Tue Jan 18 2011

Rose Raises His Game For Banged-Up Bulls

Thumbnail image for chicagobulls.pngWhile the Bears clinched a return engagement with the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, the Bulls have been busy as well with games against Charlotte, Indiana, Miami and Memphis. Here's what you missed:

Jan. 12 at Charlotte -- 96-91 loss
Stat leaders: Points-Boozer (23), Rebounds-Boozer (14), Assists-Rose (7)

Story: Bulls dug themselves a big hole in letting Charlotte off to a 36-point first quarter, and despite fighting back before the half, had a few key turnovers in the waning minutes. D.J. Augustin stepped up big for the Bobcats, limiting Derrick Rose to a terrible night of 5-of-17 shooting and had a double-double himself with 22 points and 12 assists.

What it means: Tough to say. Charlotte's certainly playing well since Paul Silas replaced Larry Brown as head coach in December, winning their fourth in a row and sixth in eight games since the change. That, and the fact that it's no secret Chicago has had trouble on the road lately perhaps means a loss like this isn't too surprising. Is Chicago the better team? Sure, but only if Rose is playing up to par, and despite 17 points, he certainly wasn't.

Jan. 14 at Indiana -- 99-86 win
Stat leaders: Points-Rose (29), Rebounds-Thomas (18), Assists-Rose (5)

Story: The Bulls took their cues from the loss against Charlotte and corrected their mistakes, playing defense for the full 48 minutes and holding Indiana to only 33 percent shooting. Rose made up for a late turnover in the last game that cost the Bulls the lead, hitting more than half his shot and grabbing 10 rebounds.

What it means: Indiana certainly has not been much of a division rival this season, but this was the Bulls' first win on the road since Dec. 26. The Pacers made several runs to cut the Bulls' lead, and the response from Rose & Co. was certainly impressive. It takes a certain mentality for a team to build a lead and keep a foot on the throat to finish out the win. It's nice to see Chicago finally do that away from the United Center.

Jan. 15 vs. Miami -- 99-96 win
Stat leaders: Points-Rose (34), Rebounds-Boozer (10), Assists-Rose (8)

Story: This game was great Chicago theater, as Second City natives Rose and Dwyane Wade battled tooth and nail. With LeBron James out with an injury and Chris Bosh sidelined for nearly the entire fourth quarter, Wade scored 33 points, 12 of them in the fourth quarter (and nine of those on three straight 3-pointers). He played like he was happy to be home.

Rose bested him with 34 points, but it was Kyle Korver who made the shot of the game, nailing a 3-pointer off a loose ball scramble with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls the lead for good. In a disappointing postscript, Carlos Boozer rolled his ankle, compounding Chicago's injury woes. It's not nearly as serious as Joakim Noah's, but the Bulls don't have room for error with both big men out for any length of time.

What it means: Sadly, not as much as we'd like. Though the road to the NBA Finals might well go through Miami, with LeBron out and Bosh (who was heating up with 11 points in the third quarter before getting hurt) missing the climactic final period, the Bulls didn't exactly beat the best the Heat can throw at them. True, Chicago was missing Noah as well, but fans hoping to look back at this game come playoff time can really only focus on Rose and Wade. The two not only put on a show worthy of two MVP candidates, but Rose in particular showed no fear in matching the veteran Wade shot for shot in the fourth quarter. Wade, meanwhile, showed that even without his two best teammates, he's still capable of carrying a team on his own.

Jan. 17 at Memphis -- 96-84 win
Stat leaders: Points-Deng (28), Rebounds-Rose (10), Assists-Rose (12)

Story: With Boozer out, Rose had even more slack to pick up and he responded with his first triple-double. Playing in his old college town, Rose had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists as Chicago held the Grizzlies to 38-percent shooting. Korver also found his range after a cold January, nailing 6 of 10 shots from beyond the arc en route to 22 points.

What it means: Another road win! Not only is Memphis a better team than the Pacers, the absence of Boozer raised the bar even further, and Rose still came through. It's performances like this and the Miami game that make aberrations like the Pacers game so surprising. It's normal to expect that everyone will have an occasional bad night, but Rose is so consistently good that we get spoiled and stunned when he's not. It's also nice to see Korver finally dialed in as well. He has struggled the past several weeks and has seen his minutes decrease accordingly, but his big shot against the Heat and then his performance yesterday demonstrated he still has confidence.

Overall, while everyone knew winning games without Noah would be a challenge, there are still games the Bulls should expect to win. But take away Boozer as well, and Chicago has no right to call any game a gimme, so it's nice to see them find a way to overcome this new challenge.

Next up, Chicago host the Bobcats tonight at the United Center at 7 p.m. CT, looking to add to their 18-3 home record and eight-game home win streak. Boozer is currently listed as day-to-day with a sprained ankle, and with a big game against Dallas coming up Thursday, I'd be surprised to see him take the floor.

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