By Nick Shepkowski-
(CBS) For the 12h game in a row and 22nd time this season, the Bulls played without the reigning MVP.
Despite a sluggish first half that saw the Bulls trail Boston by as many as 13 points, a second-falf surge gave them their 43rd victory of the season.
As for Derrick Rose, he noted before Thursday night’s game that he’ll play Sunday in New York.
Tom Thibodeau didn’t make the same guarantee, but didn’t say it wouldn’t happen, either.
“We’ll see” Thibodeau said. “We’re optimistic and hopeful”.
Whether or not Rose returns to the lineup Sunday remains to be seen but there is no doubt his teammates are excited for his return.
“We definitely want Derrick back out there, he helps but even when Derrick comes back it isn’t going to be easy” Joakim Noah said after the Bulls win. “With Derrick back we’ll still have to be hungry to be tough to beat”.
Richard Hamilton, who added nine points in just over 20 minutes of play Thursday night is excited for the Bulls to soon be playing with a full roster.
“Once we get everyone back healthy, it’s going to be fun” Hamilton said.
“It will be great” Luol Deng added, “Just having Derrick just makes it easier. A lot of attention on him offensively, his defense has been great and he just makes it easier on everyone”.
Rivers Endorses Thibodeau for Coach of the Year
Before Thursday’s game, Celtics head coach and 1999-00 NBA Coach of the Year Doc Rivers gave Tom Thibodeau a partial endorsement to win this season’s Coach of the Year award.
“Thibs and Greg Popovich” Rivers said when asked who the favorites were. “I don’t know who else, but those would be my two guys”.
Thibodeau would be the first coach to win back-to-back awards since the award was first handed out during the 1962-63 season. In that time, five different coaches have won the award two or more times.
A Different Story in the Third Quarter
Trailing 49-38 at halftime, the Bulls turned around their recent third quarter woes by outscoring Boston 29-17 during the frame.
“I thought in the second half, our defense was good and it got us in the open floor” Thibodeau said. “We played with more energy and the big thing is we had four turnovers in the second half.”
The Bulls had been dominated in third quarter play over their last two games, being outscored by a combined 62-31 margin against Houston and at Oklahoma City earlier this week.
Deng Comes Alive In Second Half
Despite shooting just 2-of-9 in the first half for eight points while pulling down just one rebound, Luol Deng had a monster second half, finishing with 26 points and six boards.
“My midrange for the last three or four games has been feeling a lot better” Deng said.
And for his wrist that has bothered him much of the season, Deng is satisfied with how it’s felt recently.
“It’s getting better, it’s either that or I’m getting used to playing with it”.
The 26 points were a season high for Deng, who had scored 24 twice entering Thursday’s game.
Boozer Records 14th Double-Double, Second Of Week
With Derrick Rose out for much of the season to date there is no doubt that Carlos Boozer has had to play a bigger part in order for the Bulls to continue to win games. Despite a mediocre game statistically from the field (just 4-for-11), Boozer recorded his 14th double-double of the season as he led the Bulls with 13 rebounds while also tossing in 10 points.
“I thought he played very well” Thibodeau said, “We have to find a way to get him more touches.”
The Bulls improved to 11-3 on the year when Boozer records a double-double. Boozer had 16 points and 13 boards in the Bulls 99-93 loss to Houston on Monday night.
In addition to covering the Bulls for 670TheScore.com, Nick Shepkowski is the associate producer on The McNeil and Spiegel Show, weekdays 9am-1pm on 670 The Score. You can follow Nick on Twitter at @Shep670.