The Bulls were on the receiving end of a Trail Blazers piledriver during the Circus Trip, but that game didn't feature Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol or Kirk Hinrich. (Yes, I had to include him.) That trio was back for the second and final meeting of the season between the two teams Friday night, and while Joakim Noah and Doug McDermott (who needs surgery on his right knee) were out for this one, it didn't matter for Chicago.
The Bulls pulled out an impressive 115-106 victory, and Derrick Rose was the Derrick Rose the Bulls need to win a championship. If you want a story of the game, look no further than this:
That's 16 of 24 shots in the paint. That's a third of his shots at the rim. That's exactly what we want to see.
Rose finished with a season-high 31 points in 31 minutes, and there's no doubt this was his best offensive performance he has had in, oh, three seasons. He was in attack mode all game long, had the floater game on lock and only settled for a couple poor threes. He also had five assists and only two turnovers.
We got to see a Rose/Aaron Brooks pairing down the stretch, and along with Damian Lillard, the three point guards put on a show. Sandwiched in between two Brooks buckets were three baskets apiece by both Rose and Lillard, as the two stars went at it like they were on the playground. And after a Lillard three trimmed the Bulls' lead down to four points with about a minute left, Rose answered with a clutch mid-range jumper in the eye of Nicolas Batum.
In addition to Rose's 31 points, Brooks had 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting off the bench. The diminutive guard also had four assists and was a team-best +23. Not to take any credit away from Lillard, who had 35 points on 13-of-21 shooting overall and 7-of-11 from three. If you want to find a flaw in Rose's performance, it was that he couldn't contain Lillard at all, and there were some possessions where Tom Thibodeau had Brooks guarding the Blazers young stud instead of Rose.
LaMarcus Aldridge also had 35 points, and things were trending in the wrong direction to start the game because Aldridge couldn't miss a damn shot no matter who was guarding him. Aldridge -- who must enjoy getting back at the Bulls for trading him on draft night or something -- went 10-of-12 IN THE FIRST QUARTER for 21 points. Chicago wasn't exactly playing great defense, but I wouldn't say they were horrible either. Aldridge just made everything.
Despite Aldridge's hands of flame, the Bulls only trailed by four points after the first quarter because Rose had that floater game down pat. Then the second quarter started, and Chicago's bench took over. In particular, Nikola Mirotic played like an absolute boss.
Mirotic scored 13 of his 15 points in just under seven second-quarter minutes, and he would have had more if he could make a damn layup. He got the job done in a variety of ways, whether it was knocking down threes or hitting the glass or getting to the line or running the floor. The dude did it all and basically turned the game around.
The early deficit turned into a 12-point lead thanks to the charge by the Bulls' reserves, who outscored the Blazers' subs 25-2 in the first half and 40-15 for the game. Chicago shot 9-of-11 from the free throw line in the second quarter (Mirotic was 6-of-6) and grabbed seven offensive rebounds, which led to eight second chance points. Portland's starters helped stopped the bleeding at the end of the half, but the Bulls led by eight heading into the break.
Rose picked up right where he left off in the second half, scoring four quick points by attacking the cup. The lead ballooned back out to 12 points, but the Blazers soon got back into it on the back of Aldridge. The lead dwindled down to two at one point, and while the Bulls stretched it back out to eight, some hot three-point shooting by Portland had Chicago up 82-78 going into the final frame.
Brooks abused Chris Kaman to start the fourth quarter, and when Rose returned with just under eight minutes left, the Rose/Brooks duo did its thing. All of the floaters.
The biggest takeaway from this game is obviously Rose, but this was just a great win in general considering Noah was sidelined. The Blazers played pretty well (shot 48.9 percent overall and 12-of-24 from three), but it didn't matter because the Bulls' offense had it going most of the night. Chicago shot 50.0 percent and had six players score in double figures. This was Portland's first loss against an Eastern Conference team all season, and a win that gives a glimpse into how good the Bulls can be this season.