Derrick Rose grabbed the microphone and thanked the fans for making him Chicago’s first All-Star starter since Michael Jordan in 1998. Then he went out and showed why they made a wise decision.
Rose had a career-high 42 points and the Bulls headed into the break with an impressive 109-99 victory over the NBA-leading San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.
Luol Deng had 19 points and Carlos Boozer finished with 15 for Chicago, which shot 54 percent in its fourth consecutive win. They improved to 38-16 after winning 41 games last season.
”We have a lot of confidence right now, knowing we can beat some of the best teams in the NBA,” Rose said. ”We just have to keep it going.”
Once again hearing ”M-V-P! M-V-P!” chants, Rose was at his best when San Antonio challenged Chicago in the fourth quarter. He had 13 points in the final period, answering Spurs baskets with acrobatic drives and long jumpers.
”What’s great about him is that he seems to love the pressure,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. ”He loves putting the team on his back so to speak.”
Rose’s long jumper as the shot clock expired with 3:21 left gave Chicago a 101-90 lead and took the steam out of one San Antonio rally. He also finished with eight assists and five rebounds.
”That was some performance,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”It was great leadership.”
Tony Parker scored 26 points and All-Star Manu Ginobili added 16 for San Antonio, which had won six of seven. Reserve Gary Neal made four three-pointers and finished with 16 points.
”We were not having our best defensive night,” Ginobili said. ”We didn’t move the ball well. We didn’t penetrate and kick the way we usually do.”
Chicago led 83-75 after three quarters and grabbed control early in the fourth. Ronnie Brewer kickstarted a 11-2 run with a dunk and finished it off with a jumper that made it 94-80 with 8:08 remaining.
Tim Duncan had 14 points and nine rebounds hours after Popovich announced he’d replace Yao Ming in the Western Conference’s starting lineup for Sunday’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles.
Duncan enters the break with career-low averages in points and rebounds, but is a key reason why San Antonio leads the NBA with a 46-10 record.
”It’s a great honor,” Duncan said. ”I didn’t expect to be there this year and I definitely didn’t expect to start, so definitely a great honor.”
The Spurs trailed for much of the night in the finale of their annual rodeo road trip, but challenged Chicago with several bursts. Rose and the Bulls had an answer each time while improving to 25-4 at home in their best start at the United Center since 1997-98 championship team won 25 of its first 27 home games.
Duncan hit a running hook and Parker converted a three-point play to help San Antonio pull within two with 4:49 left in the third, but Deng stopped the spurt with a three-pointer and Boozer had three straight points to make it 79-71.
”The third quarter was huge, and then D. Rose took the game over,” Boozer said. ”All we had to do was get him the ball.”
Even with the loss, it was a banner first half of the season for San Antonio, which set several franchise records for fastest starts. The Spurs went 6-3 on their nine-game trip and will open the second half of the year with a three-game homestand.
”To date, we have a good record, but nothing of importance has been accomplished yet,” Popovich said.
Rose slithered through San Antonio’s stout defense for 21 points in the first half, making eight of 12 shots from the field. He scored Chicago’s last six points of the second quarter, connecting on a nice runner, a jumper and two free throws to give the Bulls a 58-51 lead at the break.
NOTES: Parker said he dinged his right knee, but was fine. … Rose also was selected by the fans to participate in Saturday’s NBA Skills Challenge against Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Washington rookie John Wall, Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City and New Orleans point guard Chris Paul. … The Spurs and Bulls split the season series. San Antonio rallied to beat Chicago 103-94 on Nov. 17. … Deng was shaken up with 9:40 left, but stayed in the game. … Jordan celebrated his 48th birthday on Thursday.