Despite losing star point guard Derrick Rose for the entire second half, the Chicago Bulls rolled over the New Jersey Nets 108-87 on Monday night at Prudential Center. The Bulls, who have won three games in a row, improved to 21-6 this season and 4-2 on their season-long, nine-game road trip.
The Bulls placed five players in double figures against the lowly Nets (8-18). Carlos Boozer, who had been held to single-digit scoring in two of his last three games, put up a team-high 24 points, six rebounds and five assists. Luol Deng, playing in his second game since returning from a seven-game absence due to a torn ligament in his left wrist, got coach Tom Thibodeau's bunch off to a blistering start, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the first quarter, shooting 8-for-14 from the field and 3-for-5 from three-point range for the game. Playing a team-high 39 minutes in place of Rose, C.J. Watson notched his second career double-double, with 14 points and 11 assists to go along with seven rebounds and two steals. Joakim Noah continues to exhibit lots of energy, stuffing the stat sheet with nine points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The Bulls led 35-14 on 13-for-17 shooting after one quarter of play. Deng made all five field-goal attempts, including three three-pointers. Thibodeau's squad dominated from start to finish, leading 62-37 at halftime and by 19 points through three frames. The Bulls piled up 29 assists on 40 baskets, shooting 55.6 percent from the field, and racked up 23 fast-break points. After knocking down 14 three-pointers in Saturday night's 113-90 rout of the Milwaukee Bucks, they made 9-of-15 against the Nets.
Meanwhile, New Jersey shot just 40.5 percent from the field and missed 14-of-17 from beyond the arc. Deron Williams poured in 25 points, although he wasn't a factor early in the game for a club that looked similar to the one the Bulls smashed 110-95 at the United Center last month. He clearly looked like a player who doesn't have much of a future with the Nets unless the front office gives him some help, possibly in the form of Dwight Howard.
The bottom line for the Bulls is that they were able to pull out a win while Rose played just 10 minutes, 40 seconds on the night and sat out the entire second half because of lower back spasms.
The reigning league MVP picked up a pair of quick fouls nearly three minutes into the game and had to sit on the sidelines. He had four points in the contest before making his way to the locker room with around two minutes left in the first half. Early in the game, Rose seemed to jog gingerly after throwing down a two-handed dunk. He grabbed his back a couple of times, too, and even had a noticeable limp as he went to the locker room.
Still, Watson once again proved he can fill the void at point guard and has continually shown that he's much more comfortable in Thibodeau's offense this season. He orchestrated the offense smoothly and is averaging 10.2 points and 4.2 assists in 17 games.
Next up, the Bulls have a day off Tuesday before facing the New Orleans Hornets (4-21) on Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena. They don't play another back-to-back set until Feb. 28-29.