While it’s still early to tell if Derrick Rose is over his awful slump since the start of this season, his recent form and especially in his performance in the 98-85 win over the Memphis Grizzlies has to be a very encouraging sign for the Chicago Bulls.
Rose scored 19 points in the win and looked more aggressive in his shot selection and approach from the very first minute compared to other games this season. He tied his highest scoring mark from this month (11 days and six games ago) and it was also the most shots he took in one game (19) since late November. Maybe his eyesight still isn’t perfect, but he certainly felt a lot more comfortable shooting the ball than he has in a very long time.
Besides Rose, there were others to bring through an impressive win, a fourth in a row for the Bulls, now only 0.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East. Jimmy Butler scored 24 points and Doug McDermott, who is almost like a new signing this season after giving the Bulls nothing this season and averaging 9.6 points per game this season, added 17 points. The Bulls kept the Tony Snell and Taj Gibson forward look, while Nikola Mirotic came off the bench. Pau Gasol scored 10 points with 14 rebounds in a dominant performance against his brother, finishing with just 8 points.
It’s an interesting thing with Rose’s mask. The Bulls were on a three game losing streak before he took off the mask. He’s shooting 46.5% from the field in the four game winning streak compared to 35.7% before. It all comes with a lot less shooting until the most recent game, but if the win over Memphis is anything to go by, Rose simply feels a lot more comfortable and can actually see much more than before.
Does this mean we can upgrade the Bulls’ credit ranking and look at them as a more serious contender in the East? Might as well. Until we see something truly special from the Cleveland Cavaliers, they’re still the ones with the burden of proof riding on their shoulders regarding the whole ‘best in the East’ boast. The Bulls are working towards getting there, and some lineup tweaks and getting Rose playing better basketball is a substantial step in the right direction.