It would probably take a broken bone for Derrick Rose to miss a playoff game, so consider this good news for the Chicago Bulls.
His sprained left ankle is just that – sprained.
Rose plans to suit up for Game 5 on Tuesday when the Bulls try again to close out their first-round series with the Indiana Pacers.
”It’s getting better every day,” he said Monday. ”I’ve been getting treatment on it the last couple of days, coming in in the morning, coming in at night, getting treatment. Hopefully, it’ll be ready tomorrow. It’s not broken so I’m definitely playing.”
The swelling has gone down, and although he plans to get a painkilling shot before the game, he was in flip flops one day after wearing a walking boot. He did sit out Monday’s practice, but the Bulls can breathe a little easier knowing that an MRI confirmed there was no major structural damage.
Rose sprained his ankle driving to the basket late in the first quarter of Game 4 on Saturday and wasn’t his usual dominant self as the Pacers beat Chicago 89-84 to avoid the sweep, finishing with 15 points and 10 assists. He scored just eight points on 3-for-16 shooting after the injury but wasn’t about to use that as an excuse.
”Just missed shots,” he said. ”There’s no excuses when you’re still playing. That’s the way I think about it. If I was out there, I should’ve changed. But I’m going to change some things that I didn’t. If anything, I just missed shots. All my shots were short. I twisted my ankle but there are no excuses.”
Rose said he was ”just off.” It was as simple as that.
As for the ankle? He didn’t seem too concerned.
”This one is minor, where it takes a couple of days and it’s fine,” Rose said. ”If it was broken, I probably would be panicking or something like that. I’m just happy that the trainers have been making sure I’m getting my treatment and it’s coming along fine.”
The Bulls, meanwhile, are getting pushed in a big way after a posting a league-leading 62 wins and securing homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
They could just as easily be trailing in this series – if not out of it – considering they rallied to win the first three games by a combined 15 points. They made a big run in the closing minutes of Game 4, nearly wiping out a 13-point deficit, but came up short.
A broken play near the end left Carlos Boozer attempting and missing his first 3-pointer since the 2007-08 season and helped keep Indiana’s season going. The Pacers see no reason why it has to stop now.
”We’ve been in every game, could have won every game,” Indiana’s Danny Granger said. ”It’s all the confidence we need.”
The Pacers have frustrated Rose and the Bulls with traps, throwing the offense out of sync, and they’ve been fouling hard on shots down low.
That in part explains why Indiana has 67 turnovers into 89 points and why Chicago is shooting 39.8 percent, although Indiana isn’t much better at 41.3 percent.
Rose was not shooting particularly well before the sprain, although he is averaging 28.3 points in the series. Now he might be slowed – not that the Pacers are buying that idea.
”A guy as good as Derrick Rose, I know that he knows that this series needs to be over, so I think that ankle won’t play a role in the back of his mind,” said Paul George, the 6-foot-8 swingman who has helped frustrate him in this series. ”I think the adrenaline will be pumped, and I think he’s going to come out here trying to end us.”
So does interim Pacers coach Frank Vogel.
”Once you get out there, adrenaline starts flowing, pretty much the rest of the game you don’t feel it,” he said. ”I expect him to be 100 percent.”
If he’s not? If he has to alter his game?
”I know that I have my teammates,” he said.
The Bulls have fared well when short-handed, winning despite losing Boozer and Joakim Noah for significant portions of the season because they have one of the deepest rosters, not to mention an MVP favorite at the point.
Rose played in all but one game even if he wasn’t always a picture of health.
”He’s tough,” Chicago’s Kyle Korver said. ”He’s a hard-nosed kid, never complains. He plays so many minutes. He plays with injuries you guys don’t know about. That’s something that as a teammate, you really respect. You know. You see him in the training room. You see him in the locker room. You see how he walks around when he’s not on the actual court. He’s 22 years old, he’s the same age as my third brother, but I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”