The Chicago Bulls are slowly integrating Derrick Rose back into the rotation and giving him something close to his usual minutes, this time coming quite close to what he has played most of this season, helping them pick up a 114-107 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
While Pau Gasol picked up his 52nd double double of the season with 24 points and 13 rebounds on another impressive day for him in the post, Derrick Rose played 28 minutes, the most he’s had on the floor since coming back from his most recent injury, keeping him out for six weeks. He wasn’t very accurate (8-of-19 from the field) but he did score 22 points and the Bulls looked very good during his time on the floor, winning by 25 points, the best +/- on the team.
It wasn’t the most accurate or offensively smooth night for the Bulls anyway, despite their opponents. They shot just 44.4% from the field, as Jimmy Butler made only 3-of-11 and Aaron Brooks shot just 4-of-12. But the Bulls aren’t trying that hard to finish third, hoping to simply remain fourth in order to avoid a meeting with the Cavaliers in the conference semifinals. Sure, the Atlanta Hawks are hot again, but it seems most teams prefer a series with them than against LeBron James, who has been to the last four NBA finals.
The Bulls made their bread and butter with defense and scoring 19 points off of 15 76ers turnovers while also doing a very good job in the paint, most of them by Gasol and Taj Gibson, who seems to be coming back to himself, scoring 13 points on 6-of-7 from the field. The Bulls outscored the 76ers by 12 points in the paint and also hustled back on defense after turnovers, giving up just nine points off of 10 turnovers.
This season could have been much more for the Bulls, but a decline defensively and various injuries to hit almost every key player at one time or another have derailed this season into another chase after home court advantage and nothing more during the regular season. But the playoffs are coming, and a team that’s been past the first round only once in the last three years has grand expectations, mostly because of their former MVP point guard making his return, looking as healthy as he’s going to be.