For the second straight game, Derrick Rose won the battle of the elite point guards. It was Rose shutting down the attack of Deron Williams on Wednesday night in a victory over the Utah Jazz (in what turned out to be the last night of Jerry Sloan’s 23-year head coaching career with that franchise).
On Saturday night, it was Western Conference starting guard Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets who felt Rose's wrath.
Both teams were without their regular starting centers, Joakim Noah and Emeka Okafor, in the bout. Aaron Gray and his size proved useful for the Hornets, who used him to set countless high screens for Chris Paul.
Marcus Thornton and Jarrett Jack combined for 34 points off the New Orleans bench and helped spark their club to a 53-42 lead at the half.
However, the Bulls would not fold.
Chicago managed to cut an 11-point lead in the quarter down to two. The Hornets shot 17 free throw attempts in the period, but missed nine of them—giving the Bulls the opening they needed.
C.J. Watson and Ronnie Brewer would finish off the Hornets in the fourth quarter by forcing them into turnovers and burying shots on the other end. Tom Thibodeau let the second unit go a little longer than usual in reward for their solid play until the Hornets scored two quick buckets—cutting a nine-point lead down to five.
But D-Rose, deemed “the run killer” by Bulls’ play-caller Neil Funk, checked in with 4:13 left in the game. He buried an 11-foot jumpshot and then killed more clock by drawing a foul on Trevor Ariza.
Shortly later, he found a cutting Carlos Boozer for an easy two which sent a large portion of the New Orleans faithful to the exits before the final buzzer sounded of the Bulls’ 97-88 win in New Orleans.
The Bulls went 3-2 on the two-week road trip. A large reason for the victory on Saturday night was winning the battle of the boards over the Hornets in dominant fashion, 47-26.
Rose definitely seemed to make it a point in the last two games to take it to the two point guards whom most people considering to be the best in the NBA. Both games ended with Rose eclipsing Chris Paul and Deron Williams’ numbers and two victories.
Rose scored 23 points on seven-of-15 shooting from the field with six assists. Paul shot 3-of-10 from the field with 15 points and six assists of his own.
The 22-year-old point guard seems to want to further his already solid case in the MVP award discussions.