The Chicago Bulls are still waiting for some consistency and consecutive excellence from Derrick Rose, who put on his finest performance this season and maybe since his famous injury from over two years ago, leading his team to a 102-91 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Rose scored 24 points and added 7 assists, playing some fantastic, smart and aggressive basketball in the clutch to lead the Bulls to their sixth victory of the season, improving to 6-2 and bouncing back well after a surprising loss to the awful Boston Celtics. Jimmy Butler was helpful with his outside shooting and 19 points, Pau Gasol scored 17 and Joakim Noah, settling in after battling injuries of his own, played a very good all around game with 13 points, 14 rebounds ans 6 assists.
The Pistons, mostly through former-Bulls player D.J. Augustin, made it a two point game with less than three minutes to go after the backup point guard hit a nifty mid range jumper. The Bulls held the Pistons on only three points through the final 2:44 of the game while scoring 12 of their own, as Rose entered the paint at will, sometimes dishing out to a wide open players or finishing himself with some nice post moves over the helpless Augustin.
Rose scored or assisted on 40 of the Bulls’ 102 points. That’s his most productive game since coming back last season from his layoff which began on April, 2012. It’s his highest scoring game of the season, finishing with 9-of-20 from the field and 2-of-5 from beyond the arc. He missed the previous two games with a rest or ankle, call it what you will. What the Bulls want to see next from Rose isn’t a better game, but the ability to have a few of these in a row without having to sit out again.
The Bulls once again didn’t look too fearsome on defense. The new players in the system and the absence of Rose and Noah from most of the games so far have been a blow in terms of cohesion and defensive form. Keeping the Pistons on 92 points isn’t such an achievement as they continue to play with three big men on the floor instead of a more traditional lineup. However, the Bulls did win the rebound battle with their long list of capable big men, as Pau Gasol grabbed 15 rebounds and Taj Gibson helped off the bench with 8 points and 7 rebounds.
In the 14 games Rose has played since the beginning of last season, he has never looked like he’s actually affected by his previous injury. The speed, the movement, the aggression, it’s all there. But something changed around him and he needed, or still needs, time to adapt and adjust. The win over the Pistons was an example of maybe overcoming those shortcomings, with great decision making, good shot selection and looking once again like the floor general he did before going down against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Can he become the best point guard in the NBA again? The Bulls would love that, but they don’t really need him to. It’s more important he finds consistency and keeps whatever it is he found in the win against the Pistons going. He can leave the ‘best PG’ argument for later or for others. The Bulls just need him healthy, solid and good, sometimes great. They’ve built a good system around him, that doesn’t need him to be MVP’ish, but does need him to stay healthy if they’re to finally realize the potential of this group, three or four years in delay.