After being named the Kia Eastern Conference Player of the Month for March, Derrick Rose continued his torrid play with 27 points and 7 assists in the Bulls' 101-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Rose shot well from outside early, hitting three of four three-pointers, setting up his driving game to close things out in the second half. Carlos Boozer had his second straight quality game, which, it is worth noting, both came while Joakim Noah was on the bench with a sprained ankle. Nevertheless, Boozer had a monster game, scoring 22 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists in a near triple-double. His presence allowed the Bulls to control the pace and play inside-out, which coach Tom Thibodeau has said repeatedly is one of the Bulls' keys to success.
Luol Deng scored 15 points in 42 minutes but also had four turnovers, and is clearly in a bit of a rut as the season nears its close. Still, his ability to do the little things on offense and play some of the league's best defense means he contributes even when he isn't a consistent scoring option.
After a 38-minute halftime in which former Bull and Piston Dennis Rodman had his jersey retired, the Bulls had to reestablish the energy that helped them build a 10-point first half lead. After letting the lead dwindle to six, the Bulls went on a 15-0 run, keyed by nine points from Carlos Boozer.
Thibodeau will certainly see things he didn't like on the game film, as the Bulls' second half defense left much to be desired. However Rose and contributions from the Bulls' reserves helped put the game away late. Rose, who since missing a game-tying free throw against the Clippers in December, has become a stellar free throw shooter, averaging 86% since the fateful miss. He swished two picture-perfect free throws to seal the game as the Pistons, behind inspired efforts from veterans Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, fought to close the gap. It's been said before, but Derrick Rose, if he continues along this path, will be known as the Mariano Rivera of basketball. He is a closer, through and through.
No rest for the weary, as the Bulls have their second game of a back-to-back tomorrow night against the Toronto Raptors at the United Center. When last they played, the Raptors scored 118 points and beat the Bulls in Joakim Noah's first game in his return from thumb surgery.
Hopefully Noah will be recovered enough from an ankle sprain to return against the Raptors once again. With the victory the Bulls hold a 2.5 game over the Miami Heat, who leapfrogged the Boston Celtics by a half game in the Eastern Conference standings after the Celtics lost to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.