CHICAGO -- The Bulls used the same tried and true strategy in Saturday night's 113-106 win over the Toronto Raptors that they've been using all year when they're in a rut and need some help to get going.
Give the ball to Derrick Rose and get out of the way.
The 22-year-old dropped 15 of his 36 points in the third quarter, repeatedly making plays for himself and his teammates. It was the kind of performance the Bulls needed to scratch past the Toronto Raptors on the second night of a back and back. It was the kind of performance that gives the Bulls the confidence that no matter how little energy they have or who the opponent might be, they will always come back to find a way to win. Rose gives the Bulls the hope to dream that things will only get better when the playoffs begin.
"Derrick has done that all year," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game. "Whatever the game calls for, he is going to provide. He set the tone for us. We were flat most of the night and Derrick came up with huge plays throughout the game."
That's been a common theme all year ... and it's the biggest reason many people have seemingly decided that Rose should be the MVP of the league. He comes through when his team needs him the most and he's done it so many times this season that his teammates have come to expect it.
"I think he's going to take over every moment we're out there," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "He has the ability to pick and choose when he wants to take over. Tonight, he had a stretch in the first half where he took over for a little bit and then in the third quarter he just ran away with everything. And in the fourth quarter, he made the key plays we had to have to win the game."
For his part, as usual, Rose downplayed his accomplishments. But even he had to acknowledge that he is becoming more and more comfortable as the type of closer that so many teams wish they had.
"Every year, I think I get comfortable," Rose said. "And every situation, I think I learn from it pretty good. I look at film, talk to a lot of people, one of the people is [agent] B.J. [Armstrong]. He watches every game. [I] just ask him questions and it's been working."
That it has.
The only thing that could slow down Rose at this point appears to be fatigue, but Rose doesn't seem to be nearly as afraid as most Bulls fans that that will happen. He wants to take the game over late and he doesn't think anything will stop him right now.
"I love it," Rose said. "I think I'm in condition. It's not that painful. I'm pretty young, so I think I can fight through it."
In other words, don't worry about Rose right now. He's doing the same he's done all year ... and crushing anyone who tries to stop him.
"I'm getting a lot of rest," he said. "Outside of games, I'm sleeping, napping more. I don't go out. I watch TV a lot. The biggest thing I have to do is get messages."
He was serious. Just like his game has been all season long.