CHARLOTTE -- As great as Derrick Rose has been this season, he knows he can only lead the Bulls so far. The 22-year-old point guard realizes that if his team wants to go deep into the playoffs this spring, it needs to get the type of effort that it got from the bench in Wednesday night's 101-84 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. Specifically, the 51-35 hurting the Bulls' bench put on their Charlotte counterparts.
"In this league, you've got to have a bench," Rose said. "It takes a lot of pressure off the starters when you're sitting down, seeing your bench doing great. Like tonight, they finished the game. They kept on finding Kyle Korver [for] open jump shots and making sure they lock up on the other end."
The Bulls' bench was the catalyst to this particular win and Tom Thibodeau knows it could be the same for others over the next couple of months. Korver had 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor. Taj Gibson had 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and grabbed six rebounds as well. Ronnie Brewer had 10 points of his own, C.J. Watson added six points, Omer Asik pulled down six rebounds. It was an all-around from a group that has only gotten better as the season has worn along.
"We needed them," Thibodeau said. "The first half, offensively we were good, defensively we were poor, very poor. The second half, the defense started coming around, and the bench was great. Carlos got in the early foul trouble, so that hurt us, but Taj came in, did a great job. Ronnie was playing really well, and, of course, Kyle, so they did a great job and C.J. was running the team well."
Everything was looking good for the group by the game's end, especially Korver's shot. He was in the type of rhythm that the Bulls have been hoping to see all season. When he is shooting the ball like that, Thibodeau's team is that much tougher to beat.
"It's a comfort zone," Korver said of getting into a shooting 'zone'. "You don't have to think about your shot at all, you're just looking for hands down. When you see it down, you put it up and you know it's going on. When those moments happen, it's kind of fun."
What has to be fun for Thibodeau is knowing that he can turn to the bench and feel comfortable that it won't give up too much on the floor. To that point, that's why nobody in the Bulls locker room seemed overly concerned when Boozer went down late in the fourth quarter with a sprained left ankle. Sure, they will miss him if he has to be out for an extended amount of time, but the team has confidence that Gibson can step in and hold down the fort.
<>"Tajy-Wu is a helluva player," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "And he's somebody that you can rely on to step up and play tough."
Like the rest of his benchmates, Gibson is just hoping to help out when and where he can.
"Since all the injuries are coming, the coaching staff just wanted me to just get back to how I was playing earlier in the season," Gibson said. "Just get back to playing with energy, making shots, playing good defense and get ready for the playoffs. They said the next couple of weeks they just wanted me to get ready, and get focused, because we're trying to make a long playoff run."
With the bench playing the way it has lately, there's reason to believe that's a distinct possibility.