Here’s what Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose had to say before Monday night’s game against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center:
“Tonight I’m going to try to go crazy. I can’t wait to get onto that court.”
Bad news for the Wizards, who got a heavy dose of the reigning MVP in the first quarter and more of the same right after halftime in the Bulls’ 98-88 victory.
Rose, who missed the game against Washington earlier this season, finished with a season-high 35 points, including 14 for 15 from the foul line. It was his third straight game with at least 30 points, and he added eight assists and three blocks, although he had five turnovers in the second game of a back-to-back.
“He set the tone,” Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau said of Rose. “He’s been doing that. I think he’s feeling a lot better. When he comes out like that, it’s his will. He imposes his will on everybody, and he made us very aggressive.”
Rose scored 13 points in the first quarter, converting several baskets on floaters in the lane over the likes of 7-foot-1 center JaVale McGee. He shot 6 for 8 in the opening 12 minutes to stake the Bulls to a 26-16 lead while John Wall, his Wizards counterpart, tried to match Rose’s intensity.
Wall wound up with eight points in the first quarter, but Rose took over the game in the third by going to the basket with authority instead of settling for jumpers. That change in strategy landed Rose at the foul line on four consecutive possessions, and he made all eight foul shots to help Chicago pull away.
“It’s a tough start of the third quarter,” Wall said. “You’re down 11, and he makes eight free throws in like two minutes, that’s tough. You make floaters over a seven-footer like that, there is nothing you can do but credit great talent with that.”
Rose added three field goals, including one three-pointer, and the Bulls took a 76-59 lead into the final period.
Chicago (18-5) was coming off a 97-94 loss to Miami in a game matching Eastern Conference powers. Rose missed a pair of critical foul shots with 23 seconds left in the game, and afterward he said he felt he let down his teammates and the city of Chicago.
The Wizards (4-17) absorbed the brunt of Rose’s frustration, and the Bulls continued their assault on the Eastern Conference with their 12th win in 15 games against those opponents.
“I was just playing my game, man,” Rose said when asked about his pregame remarks. “That’s me being aggressive. [Thibodeau] is always telling me just to play my game, and everybody will follow, and tonight thank God my shots were just falling down.”