While the oft-injured Derrick Rose hasn’t been able to stay on the court, the Chicago Bulls have more than held their own without him.
The Indiana Pacers haven’t looked the same without their injured superstar.
Rose is uncertain to be available as the Bulls host the struggling Pacers on Saturday night.
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It’s been a frustrating start to the season for Rose, who scored 20 points before exiting with a hamstring injury in Thursday’s 100-93 win at Toronto. The former NBA MVP was playing in his second consecutive game after missing four of five with sprained ankles. Rose, who is working his way back from two serious knee injuries, had a season-high 24 points in Monday’s win over Detroit.
"This is going to happen, especially when you miss two years," Rose told the team’s official website. "Just trying to do everything right, work on flexibility, eat right, stretch right, hydrate right, try to put everything on my side (to) get better. Missing two years, you are just going to fall for no reason, I guess. Just trying to work every day. I’m not losing any confidence with these little setbacks."
The Bulls (7-2) have shined despite those setbacks thanks in large part to newcomer Pau Gasol. The four-time All-Star is averaging 19.3 points – his highest mark in eight seasons – to go with 11.1 rebounds per game.
"You can’t say enough about him," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The way he sets the tone for the team, plays both sides of the ball and plays unselfishly. He’s great, every aspect of the game. … He’s been huge for us."
So has Jimmy Butler, who’s averaging 19.7 points on 52.3 percent shooting, way up from last season’s marks of 13.1 and 39.7. He already has four 20-point games – one fewer than all of last season.
Chicago, last in the league in scoring in 2013-14 at 94.6 per game, is averaging 103.6 points.
The Pacers (3-7) are 29th in scoring this season at 91.2 per game, and still looking for others to step up with Paul George sidelined due to a broken leg. Indiana followed a six-game losing streak with back-to-back wins before its woes resumed in Friday’s 108-87 loss to Denver.
Indiana trailed by as many as 33 and its starters shot 33.3 percent as the Nuggets snapped a six-game skid. Indiana shot 11 of 22 from the foul line for its worst effort since going 7 of 19 on March 26, 2011.
"We need to bring it every night. That’s the bottom line," coach Frank Vogel said. "It should hurt, we should be angry about our performance. But we have to move on from it right away and regroup and get ready for a game (Saturday) night."
Chris Copeland entered averaging a team-leading 15.6 points before scoring three on 1-of-10 shooting. Roy Hibbert went 3 of 9 and finished with nine points after scoring a combined 45 in the previous two games.
Hibbert, averaging a career-best 14.2 points, has been limited to 8.9 per game against Chicago while shooting 36.6 percent, his lowest mark against any team.
The Bulls and Pacers split four meetings last season, with each team going unbeaten at home. Chicago has taken three straight and 14 of 17 in the series at the United Center.
Aside from George, the Pacers have also been without David West, George Hill and C.J. Watson. Rodney Stuckey is getting closer to returning after missing the last six games with a foot injury.