CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose has repeated one particular mantra all season long as it pertains to how he wants his team to perceived.
"We're just trying to be this grimy team," the 22-year old All-Star has said over and over. "Where we don't care about our stats or anything. We're just trying to go out there and trying to win."
Rose had another solid game on the stat sheet dropping 26 points, nine assists and seven rebounds on the night, but he knows the truth. Thursday night's game was ugly. Real ugly. Rose missed 19 shots. Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki scored 19, but missed 10 shots of his own. The two teams combined for just two fast break points. The biggest difference was that the Bulls continued to play the type of defense of Tom Thibodeau has been hoping to see. Their defensive sets were active and they frustrated the Mavericks all night, as they shot just 36 percent from the field. The Bulls also out-rebounded Dallas 51-41, including 17 offensive rebounds.
In short, out of all the Bulls’ 29 victories, this was one was the grimiest of the grimy. That's the reason Rose was still able to smile when it was all over.
"Tonight was tough, man," he said. "I can't even lie. We just have to suck it up, play hard and see who's going to win. Both teams were out there playing bad. We just fought our way through it."
The Bulls certainly did plenty of fighting on the defensive end and it showed. Playing without Carlos Boozer (ankle) and Joakim Noah (thumb surgery) yet again, the Bulls locked Nowitzki and company throughout the night. So much so, that Thibodeau's team received one of its highest compliments of the season from Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle.
"They play physical no matter what," he said, when asked about how the Bulls played without their dynamic duo in the post.
While there is no doubt the Bulls would love to have both men back, it's clear that the rest of the players take pride in the fact that they are able to have success without two members of their starting frontcourt.
"To me, it marks a good team because you have other guys stepping up," Bulls guard Ronnie Brewer said. "Everybody knows about what Carlos Boozer can do, what Joakim Noah provides for this team, but when you have guys that come off the bench and step up night in, night out, it shows that you have a lot of depth and we have a lot of other guys who can come in and make plays every night."
That was the sentiment throughout the victorious locker room.
"Injuries are a part of the game, but you just got to find some kind of way to have a collective effort out there to overcome that," Bulls center Kurt Thomas said. "And that's what we've been successful with this year and hopefully it can continue."
Once again, Thomas did his part scoring nine points and pulling down 11 rebounds in 29 minutes. Like so many of his teammates, he played hard-nosed defense from the outset. The Bulls knew they had to be aggressive with Nowitzki and Jason Terry and they never allowed them to get many clean looks at the rim.
"Over-helping," Rose noted as the difference. "Making sure the helpside was there. Trying to block shots and just playing hard."
A grimy effort, indeed.