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Bulls soldier on without hurtin’ Derrick Rose, rout Nets

Derrick Rose left game against Nets first half.  “Tonight was pretty rough” Rose said his stiff back.  |

Derrick Rose left the game against the Nets in the first half. “Tonight was pretty rough,” Rose said of his stiff back. | Nathaniel S. Butler~Getty Images

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Updated: March 8, 2012 8:18AM



NEWARK, N.J. — It’s hard to tell if the Bulls are getting better or the competition is getting worse.
Regardless, it won’t matter if Derrick Rose’s back spasms prevent him from playing more than one half for very long.

Taking an edge off the Bulls’ second consecutive road blowout, Rose sat out the second half and played just 11 minutes of the
108-87 victory against the hapless New Jersey Nets on Monday night at Prudential Center.

Nothing to worry about?

‘‘Just back stiffness. Day-to-day,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘We’ll see how he is tomorrow.’’

“Just back spasm. It’s nothing to worry about,’’ Rose said. ‘‘It was tight the whole game. Tonight was pretty rough. It’s just something where I’ve got to get a massage and [get it] stretched right away, and hopefully it’ll be gone.’’

Rose has dealt with back issues before in his career. The concern is that the frenetic pace of the compressed post-lockout schedule is aggravating what has been a manageable situation.

‘‘For right now, I’ll be playing next game,’’ Rose said. ‘‘It’s nothing like I’m going to be sitting out.’’

He said that with a chuckle. But even Rose seemed to know his fate was not in his hands.

‘‘I always want to think positive,’’ he said. ‘‘I want to keep things
going that way.’’

Rose, who scored four points on 2-for-3 shooting, wasn’t missed at all against the Nets. He scored on a dunk but still was a bit part as the Bulls opened a 9-2 lead in the first 2:15 of the game. And when he went to the bench after picking up his second foul on a charge 30 seconds later, C.J. Watson replaced him, hit an 18-footer and fed Luol Deng for a three-pointer as the Bulls continued to pour it on, leading 27-10,
40-16 and 62-37 at halftime.

‘‘We’re learning — that’s the good thing,’’ Rose said. ‘‘We’re finally getting the message that Thibs is telling us. In the beginning of games, we’re putting teams away. We’re not giving them any confidence. Our energy has been great.’’

Watson, a productive substitute for Rose in spot duty when Rose is healthy, was more than up to the task against the Nets. He finished with 14 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds playing against Nets All-Star guard Deron Williams.

‘‘C.J. was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Running the team. Playing very good defense. He did a lot of great things.’’

Carlos Boozer added 24 points on 9-for-13 shooting, with six
rebounds and five assists. Deng had another impressive performance with 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Ronnie Brewer scored 12 points. Taj Gibson added 11 points off the bench.

Led by Deng and Boozer, the Bulls hit 12 of their first 13 shots and assisted on 10 of their 13 baskets in the first quarter to open a 35-14 lead. Kyle Korver scored on a tip-in and hit two three-pointers as the Bulls built a 62-37 halftime lead. They led 67-43 against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.

But for now, Rose is the one to watch.

‘‘You’re always concerned — certainly with [Rose], but no more than any other player,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘We’re hopeful. He’s done a great job of taking care of himself, doing a lot of extra conditioning. We’re hopeful that this is a very short-term thing.’’



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