The Indiana Pacers’ undefeated streak had to come to an end at some point. Their 9-0 start quickly established them as an Eastern Conference contender, but somebody had to end the run sooner or later. Who better than the perennial streak-buster Chicago Bulls, who not only had home-court advantage but also enjoyed Derrick Rose‘s finest game of the season thus far?
Last week I wrote about how critical Chicago’s upcoming stretch would be for establishing their offensive chemistry since the Bulls would take on decent opponents who could provide a challenge but weren’t too imposing to overcome. Rose’s hamstring injury aside, the Bulls have since added three more W’s to the win column and moved back above .500. So even though Rose missed an entire game during that three-game stretch, the two that he did play have each been his best performance of the year up to that point.
Against the Toronto Raptors, Chicago didn’t need Rose in a 96-80 blowout on the road. Although DeMar DeRozan dropped 37 points (and did this to poor Joakim Noah), the Bulls still held the Raptors to 35 percent shooting and 23 percent from 3-point range. This team needs Rose on the floor to truly contend in the East, but it was encouraging to see that Chicago can still defend and get wins without him as well. Noah showed signs of life on the offensive end with 18 points, Luol Deng had 19 and every starter scored in double figures as Chicago shot 45 percent from the field.
Against the Pacers, it wasn’t clear whether or not Rose would play until a few hours before game time. But it’s a good thing his hamstring wasn’t bothering him enough to keep him sidelined, because Chicago blew out the previously undefeated Pacers in a statement game at home. Indiana was looking like an unstoppable force on the defensive end heading into the matchup, holding opponents to an absurdly low 83.7 points per game. Up to that point, Derrick Rose and the Bulls had been about as easy on the eyes as a Matt Barnes tweet in your Twitter feed.
It’s almost like Rose needed a few games to get the rust off after having not played for 18 months.
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) November 17, 2013
I still think the Pacers are the class of the East, since they’re holding opponents to 86.3 points per game (first in the NBA) and have a defensive rating of 94.3 (second in the NBA). One good win in November doesn’t exactly elevate Chicago to top of the East, nor does it mean Derrick Rose is completely back. But the Bulls are the first team to put up 100-plus on Indiana’s dominant defense this season and it was definitely a coming-back-down-to-earth scenario for the Pacers. They’re an incredibly good team, but the Bulls served up a nice reminder that they are too when Derrick Rose is on point.
And boy was he on point against Indiana. It was a pleasant but unexpected performance from a guy who’s struggled finding his offensive rhythm and had yet another injury hindering his attempts to get back in the groove. Against the Cavaliers, he showed signs of improvement on offense and he also absolutely shut down Kyrie Irving. The hammy kept him out a game, but Rose continued his progress from Cleveland in his first game back, putting up 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting while knocking down six triples in the 110-94. Rose also added four assists and one steal without committing a single turnover.
It was a team effort, obviously. Luol Deng led Chicago in scoring with 23 and Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy all reached double digits as well. The Bulls shot 50 percent from the floor as a team. But Rose was the catalyst in the win, firing up the crowd early when he got hot and started feeling it from downtown. Playing Derrick Rose off the ball and letting Hinrich run the point guard position was a nice change and certainly had a lot to do with Rose’s effectiveness. Chicago was up by 25 at the half and kept their distance for the remainder of the definitive victory.
It wasn’t the first time the Bulls have ended a streak and it probably won’t be the last. The genetic makeup of this team means they rise to these kinds of challenges and view streaks as a personal offense. That makes them an impressive group in that respect, but it also means we can’t read too much into the decisive result. Although the victory over an undefeated division opponent is great news for Bulls fans since the win could have home-court advantage implications come playoff time, these teams won’t meet again until March. They’ll likely be very different teams by that time. However, even though Derrick Rose isn’t going to knock down six threes every night, this current stretch is an important one to get the Bulls back on track. So far, they’re making the most of it.
Topics: Bulls Blowout Pacers, Bulls Hand Pacers First Loss Of The Season, Chicago Bulls Beat Undefeated Pacers, Chicago Bulls Vs Indiana Pacers, Derrick Rose Vs Indiana Pacers 2013, Pacers Undefeated Streak Ends