By Cody Westerlund–

CHICAGO (CBS) – After a disastrous 25-point loss against the Hornets on Tuesday, the Bulls responded with a 104-98 win against the Thunder on Thursday night at the United Center. Here are the notes and observations of the night.

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1. It was the Derrick Rose show in the fourth quarter, as he scored 12 of his team-high 29 points in the final game’s final 9:34 to lead the Bulls to victory.

This wasn’t vintage Rose. It was instead a heavy dose of mid-range jumpers that he converted upon probing the defense in a pick-and-roll game with Pau Gasol. In the final five minutes, the Bulls went to the Rose-Gasol two-man game eight times in a nine-possession stretch.

With the game tied at 92-all with just under four minutes left, Rose reeled off eight consecutive points for the Bulls – on a floater, two mid-range jump shots and two free throws.

“Do your thing, brother,” said backcourt mate Jimmy Butler, who had 26 points himself.

Part of the reason Rose found consistent space to operate was because Thunder big man Enes Kanter – a bad defender, to be blunt – played the entire fourth quarter and often found himself defending the pick-and-roll or, worse yet, being isolated on Rose. His continued presence was likely the result of fellow big man Steven Adams leaving the game in the third quarter with an injury and not returning.

The Bulls certainly benefited.

“It’s a tough cover for any team,” said Gasol, who was the beneficiary of two Rose assists out of the pick-and-roll late. “They got to pick their poison.”

2. There’s been no bigger public supporter of Rose in the Bulls organization than big man Joakim Noah. After the game, Noah again gave a passionate defense of Rose, who was coming off a stretch in which he went scored in single-digits in three consecutive games for the first time in his career.

Believing he was responding to a question about the “hysteria” surrounding Rose – it was actually about the alarm surrounding the Bulls as a team after Tuesday’s debacle, but Noah cut in early – Noah backed Rose once again.

“F*** it,” Noah said. “To me, it’s part of our job. When you play with somebody like Derrick Rose especially, to me, I know him, he doesn’t care at all (about criticism). He doesn’t care at all. But me, it bothers me especially for him. Because I know people don’t realize how hard it is to go out there and play and especially when you’ve gone through the things he’s gone through, like injuries.”

3. Though Rose struggled mightily from the floor in shooting 8-of-29 (27.6 percent) in his past three games entering Thursday, there was a promising sign.

He’s displayed smart shot selection, for the most part, all season long. Of his 87 field-goal attempts this year in six games, only nine have been 3-pointers. He’s made none of the trey attempts. Entering Thursday, only 15 of his 62 shots had come from beyond 16 feet. Most of his work was around the basket, but he was simply finishing poorly.

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Though Rose started 1-of-9 on Thursday, coach Fred Hoiberg sensed a barrage coming. After shootaround Thursday morning, Hoiberg worked with Rose, and Rose also took more shots than he usually does before the game.

Rose attributed his 11-of-16 finish from the field to finding rhythm. He finished 12-of-25 overall, 0-of-1 on 3-pointers.

“I’m just shooting more,” Rose said. “The last couple of games I only shot seven or eight shots. You couldn’t tell which way the game was going to go. I knew things were getting out of hand in the Charlotte game, after they went up eight or 10 points. But with my eye like this, I don’t want to affect the game in a way where I’m messing up the game. I want to do something positive and getting my teammates in the right position, and by that time the game was over. So tonight, I was just trying to be aggressive. I’m still getting my rhythm, and it’s slowly coming to me.”

Rose was asked about the balancing act between being a facilitator – he also had seven assists Thursday – and being a scorer and volume shooter when it’s needed. He responded by saying, “Only time will tell.”

Read: He’s still finding his way.

4. Noah provided a big spark for the Bulls in playing a season-high of nearly 26 minutes. He had four points, seven rebounds and four assists, and the Bulls made a strong second quarter run with him on the floor. Noah finished with a game-best plus-minus of 16.

“Jo’s a huge energy guy,” Butler said. “He does all the little things for us, making all the right plays. He doesn’t get enough credit for what he brings to this team. Without Jo, we wouldn’t be the team that we are.”

What got him going?

“The lights, man,” Butler said of a game that was on national TV. “Jo loves the lights.”

5. The two best performances by the Bulls this season have resulted in wins against two championship contenders – the Cavaliers and Thunder. That’s significant for more than just the gaudy win totals those foes will post.

Despite their protests to the contrary, the Bulls aren’t that athletic of a team outside of Butler (and Taj Gibson when his ankles are feeling good). They’re largely a below-the-rim squad, if we’re to compare them to their NBA brethren. Rose has reinvented his game, relying on horizontal quickness as opposed to vertical burst to be a game-changer. Gasol, Noah and Tony Snell provide length but don’t overwhelm with sheer physical gifts.

That the Bulls could still dictate play against the explosive Thunder was noteworthy, because that’s a major obstacle to overcome against elite teams. After struggling on the glass early in the season, the Bulls were much better Thursday. They posted a defensive rebounding rate of 80.0 and won the rebounding battle 47-44 against one of the most athletic teams in the league.

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Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.