As Derrick Rose goes, so go the Chicago Bulls. Tonight's game against the New Jersey Nets was not their best offensive performance, but the defense was outstanding as the Bulls beat the Nets 84-73 to extend their overall win streak to eight straight. It also marked their fifth straight win by double digits, the longest such streak since the Jordan era.
The win put the Bulls back on top of the Eastern Conference by half a game, ahead of the Boston Celtics. The Nets beat the Celtics earlier this week to drop Chicago into a tie for the top spot initially.
Tonight's game featured arguably the league's two best point guards, Derrick Rose and Deron Williams. Rose won the battle, though it was Williams' line more than his own that shows how. While Rose was held to 21 points on 8-of-23 shooting by Williams, Rose's defense was even better on his opponent.
Williams was only 1-for-12 on the night with five points. Rose also forced Williams into four turnovers and blocked two of his shots. For most of the game, Rose was on Williams giving him few opportunities to score and forcing him into passing. To Williams' credit, he did have 11 assists to Rose's two.
It was the second time this season the two point guards faced off, though the first time since Williams was traded from Utah.
The game saw Chicago fall behind early in the first quarter but come back and take a four-point lead by the end of the first. Then they progressively built a lead which fluctuated around ten points for most of the second and third quarters.
The Nets kept fighting their way back into the game behind the efforts of Brook Lopez, who had 22 points and eight boards, and Kris Humphries, who grabbed 16 rebounds while scoring 13.
With 4:57 left in the fourth quarter, the Nets drew even and it started to look like they might upset the Bulls as they had upset the Celtics earlier this week. After a pair of Lopez free throws, the game was tied at 69.
Behind Rose's leadership, the Bulls stepped it up and outscored the Nets 15-4 for the remainder of the game. Rose had a pair of field goals, an assist, a block and a steal. Kyle Korver added six points and the Bulls did what they need to do advance in the playoffs, close out games on the road.
Rookie center Omer Asik also had his best game as a pro. He scored 11 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, nine of them offensive. Dubbed "The Turkish Hammer" by Bulls announcer Stacey King, he also had two blocked shots and played effective and aggressive defense inn the middle.
The Bulls were once again without the services of starting power forward Carlos Boozer, who sprained an ankle last week and has missed four games since. They did see Joakim Noah return to the lineup after the last game with flu-like symptoms. Boozer may return tomorrow night in the Bulls' game at Indiana.