The name of Derrick Rose almost always comes up with the word ‘return’ due to his common absences. He came back red hot from his latest one, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 129-120 win over the Toronto Raptors with a huge fourth quarter from the former MVP, carried in the earlier goings by Jimmy Butler and the bench.
Rose finished the game with 29 points, scoring 15 in the fourth quarter with an array of mid range jumpers and powerful moves to the hoop. Rose hit 12-of-19 from the field, looking sharp and confident after missing two consecutive games. Taj Gibson was also out for a couple with an ankle problem and scored 10 points off the bench. Not too many people noticed, but the Bulls enjoyed their full nine man rotation, something that rarely happens.
The Raptors made their case for winning the game in the second quarter and opening an 11-point lead behind Terrence Ross’ red hot start from beyond the arc. After hitting his first four 3-point attempts, Ross went quite cold from long range, making just one of his next seven attempts. Maybe the scare tactics of Joakim Noah had something to do with it, although Ross his hit only one of the second half through that attempt by the center to jolt him.
Ross scored 17 points, but the Raptors are still struggling without DeMar DeRozan, who should be coming back from his injury very soon. It was another big night for Kyle Lowry, scoring 34 points, helped by Jonas Valanciunas with 20, and yet the Raptors were at their worst with the starting lineup, suffering that huge Bulls run in the fourth quarter. Chicago scored 49 points in the fourth to come back from behind, their highest scoring quarter in franchise history. It’s also the most a team has scored in the fourth since the Celtics poured down 49 on the Lakers in 1993.
While Rose got his groove going in the fourth quarter, Jimmy Butler, as always, was taking care of business for the Bulls a lot earlier. The team’s leading scorer this season finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds, hitting a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line. Butler’s life story and incredible emergence from role player to borderline All-Star this season continues to defy logic, and it seems to be that he’s just getting better with time.
The Bulls’ bench unit seemed to thrive whenever it was called upon again. The return of Gibson might have bitten into Nikola Mirotic’s minutes, but both of them made the most of the situation. Gibson scored 10 points to go with 7 rebounds in 18 minutes, while Mirotic finished with 12 points in the same amount of time, most of them coming from the line. Aaron Brooks was the best of the bunch scoring 17 points, one of seven players scoring in double figures for the Bulls.
The Raptors still have the best record in the East (22-7), one game ahead of the Atlanta Hawks (20-7). However, the longer DeRozan stays out the easier it’ll be for teams behind them (Wizards, Bulls and maybe Cavs as well) to start eating away at the distance. The Bulls have looked great in recent games (three wins in a row) and now that they have their full roster available (except for McDermott, who wasn’t a big part of it all anyway), they might start showing who really is the best in the East.