The Bulls beat the Mavericks on Saturday night in a game that sort of had the opposite feeling of the previous game in Miami, with the Bulls opponent never being put away, yet victory never really seeming in doubt. Dallas had played the night before, this was their 7th game in 10 nights, and they were resting Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. All likely contributed to a dismal first quarter: 8 points, only 3 of 20 shots weren't jumpers, and they had no offensive rebounds. After that, they were able to stay close through FT shooting and the usual Dirk ridiculousness, but for once the Bulls were the team that was fully healthy. The Bulls were able to make huge runs to end both the 1st and 3rd quarters while Nowitzki sat (his lineups were +10 in a game they lost by 10) and secured a huge victory: with Miami losing on the same night (again...they have their own issues) the Bulls magic number is down to 1.
Besides seeding, the other important big-picture news is that Derrick Rose returned and played 31 minutes. He certainly didn't look himself, but was still fairly effective. The drives to the rim weren't there (no FTAs), and even his trips up the court to pass the ball off started with more of a shuffle than usual. The physical limitations were also apparent on defense, leading eventually to a full-fledged fawning by Hubie Brown on Delonte West. But Rose managed what he could, converted some very difficult shots, and played an effective floor game with 8 assists and a single turnover. The Bulls don't play again until Wednesday so there was a chance for extra rest if Rose skipped this game, but if this was a way to work out some kinks then hopefully it'll turn out well. Thibs once again probably took things unnecessarily far in keeping Rose in for the final 2 minutes after Carlisle already conceded, but as long as there's no setbacks that's as good of news as we can expect.
While he didn't really forge any great new chemistry with Rose, and strangely sat most of the 4th quarter, Rip Hamilton played another very good game. Rip and Carlos Boozer started out very well with 10 points each in their first stints. I especially liked Rip's aggressiveness in transition, there were a couple moments where he was on the break and went to the rim even when he didn't have the advantage. Joakim Noah again had a great night on the offensive glass where the Bulls overall weren't dominant, getting 5 of their 8 ORebs. Noah's center counterparts on Dallas provided nearly zero production.
The big difference for the Bulls tonight was 3-point shooting, led by Deng's 4-7 and Korver's 3-5. The Bulls offense sputtered in stretches with Rose not being what he usually is, but they did more than enough to get a huge victory.