Bulls close in as top seed overall
INDIANAPOLIS—Even as the Chicago Bulls wrapped up another impressive victory, the question that has dogged them remained unanswered: will Derrick Rose be ready for the playoffs after fighting through injuries all season?
Rose, last season’s league MVP, finished with 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting to help the Bulls defeat the Indiana Pacers 92-87 last night.
Though he couldn’t finish like he normally does on his quick, furious drives to the basket, his unparalleled explosiveness was back.
“Every day is getting better,” he remarked. “I’m not trying to do too much out there, just trying to play with the team, trying not to get re-injured.
“That’s the biggest thing, and making sure I’m playing with a lot of confidence,” he stressed.
Rose, who had seven assists and just one turnover in 27 minutes, had 11 points and eight assists on Saturday in a win over Dallas after missing the previous three games.
“I think he’s getting a lot more comfortable,” said Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau.
“His body is feeling a lot better and he needs to play. He needs to play in games,” Thibodeau added.
“He’ll get up to speed very quickly.”
Kyle Korver scored 20 points, Carlos Boozer had 16, and Joakim Noah had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Chicago.
The Bulls ended the game needing just a win over Cleveland tonight or a loss by the San Antonio Spurs to clinch the top overall seed in the playoffs.
The Bulls said earning the top seed is a secondary goal.
“We’re just trying to do what we can do as a team,” Noah said. “We’re just playing for ourselves.
“We just want to be playing well for when it really counts,” he stressed.
Lance Stephenson had a career-high 22 points in his first career start for the Pacers, who rested Danny Granger and Leandro Barbosa because they were locked into the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference.
Indiana will have home-court advantage against Orlando in the first round.
“Our last two games, the primary goal was to sharpen up for Game 1 of the playoffs,” said Indiana coach Frank Vogel.
“Our starters got some good reps tonight and so did our bench.
“We accomplished the goal of getting a good look at Lance Stephenson,” he added.
Thibodeau, meanwhile, said the Bulls will play their regular lineup tonight.
Elsewhere in the NBA, Washington beat Cleveland 96-85, Orlando downed Charlotte 102-95, Denver shaded Oklahoma City 106-101, Philadelphia upended Milwaukee 90-85, New York trimmed the L.A. Clippers 99-93, and San Antonio topped Phoenix 110-106.