Again, 'huge win' is redundant at this late and desperate point of the Bulls season, but this looked schedule-wise like one the Bulls couldn't let get away. And it would've been an even bigger shame to waste great scoring nights from Kirk Hinrich (4-4 from three!) and Flip Murray. With Deng still out, the Bulls won't rely on James Johnson as much (rightfully so tonight, while he did some some good things he was fouling too much) as they will on 3-guard lineups featuring those two. It isn't a pretty option, but it's really all they can do, and what really hurts is not that it forces Flip Murray in as the backup SF, but that Jannero Pargo gets more time as a cascading result. Man is he awful.
Taj Gibson did a great job on the boards tonight and I was impressed by his perimeter defense when the Rockets tried to go small. The Rockets, even when they had Carl Landry, aren't a very big team and are completely devoid of shotblockers. So their method of defense is standing still and flopping, an unnerving tactic even when it was effective for the Malik Allens and Othella Harringtons of the Skiles days. And it was made much worse by the refs calling identical block/charge situations inconsistently for the two teams, with the Bulls getting the short end of it.
It was so bad (and I really don't think the refs are usually a big game story, but tonight they were) that Vinny Del Negro was ejected for the first time in his soon-to-be-over coaching career. Must've been on his bucket list. I'm still not sure why VDN got the second technical, he was certainly way out on the court after a block/charge call went against the Bulls, but was back on the bench by the time the second one was made. My Dad - our last game at the UC this season, and before the Bosh era! - imparted on me his theory: "because Bob Delaney is an asshole". Works for me, as (obviously) VDN isn't usually going after the officials.
(The head coaching debut of Bernie Bickerstaff was dead on arrival as his first move was to bring in Pargo.)
But VDN did the job in getting the refs to even out the calls (causation if I say so), and Derrick Rose took over the rest. The difference in having no offense and no superstar with having no offense with a superstar is such a relative relief. Just knowing that when all else fails Rose can get anywhere he wants (either to the rim to finish or kicking out to Hinrich for a huge 3-pointer). Rose was even shooting threes himself, attempting 7 (hitting 2) making it 13 attempts in his two games back from injury. That's an interesting development to observe going forward. He even turned in a good night defensively, as outside of some late three-pointers Aaron Brooks did nothing. (Hinrich overcame a rough start on that to sufficiently slow down Brooks' backcourt mate Kevin Martin to 19 points.)
And Rose's finish shows once again the importance of playing meaningful games. Does it mean we as fans should be satisfied with the Org. putting out a team that needs to scrap for the right to be sacrificed to the altar of LeBron? No, but since that's a done deal at this point, I prefer Derrick Rose being in games that matter, and whether they ultimately matter in the big picture isn't relevant in the context of what the guys on the floor are preparing and playing for nightly.
The Raptors and Heat held serve tonight winning games of their own, but when Rose plays this well it seems that he can get the Bulls to the playoffs by himself. Getting Noah back completely (only comes in for 6-minute stints each half, but makes an impact) is a huge factor as well, and together they need to get the Bulls to take care of these next two home games so that the rest of the schedule can stay meaningful as well.