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Derrick Rose does ‘whatever it takes’ as Bulls beat Spurs

Carlos Boozer challenges Tim Duncan with drive hoop. Boozer was held eight points (4-for-13 shooting) Bulls’ win. | Darren Abate~AP

Carlos Boozer challenges Tim Duncan with a drive to the hoop. Boozer was held to eight points (4-for-13 shooting) in the Bulls’ win. | Darren Abate~AP

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Updated: April 2, 2012 9:54AM

SAN ANTONIO — Even if Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich insisted there is no such thing as a regular-season measuring stick, the actions of their players told a different story.

This was a big game, all right, the kind of game that had 14-year veteran Tim Duncan pumping his fist and waving his index ­finger after burying a jumper in the third quarter. It featured the kind of go-for-broke mentality that had Joakim Noah taking over a timeout to inspire his teammates when he wasn’t even in the game.

Derrick Rose scored 29 points in the 96-89 victory at the AT&T Center and called it his most intense performance of the season.

“It was like a playoff atmosphere,” Rose said. “Their goal is the same as ours — to win a championship. Whatever it takes. That’s what I was doing out there, whatever it takes to win that game.”

What it took from Rose was stepping in front of 6-6, 215-pound guard James Anderson to take a punishing charge. It was responding to being hit hard on the right side of his face by scoring a left-handed reverse layup.

There were plenty of Bulls fans in the crowd, as there always seems to be, but even the Spurs faithful were hushed when Rose was on the floor writhing in pain after knocking knees with Tony Parker in the first quarter.

He returned to the court after a timeout and immediately took Parker off the dribble for a twisting, one-handed layup.

For the second night in a row, Rose made huge plays down the stretch to lead his team to victory.

“I didn’t want to look,” Thibodeau said when asked about Rose’s apparent knee injury. “Usually, he bounces up pretty quick so I was pretty concerned.”

The Bulls went up by eight late in the second when Rose punctuated a deep three-pointer with the kind of uncharacteristic snarl that implied this game might mean more to the reigning MVP than it did last season’s Coach of the Year.

The play was set up by Kyle ­Korver, who dived headlong into the right corner to save a loose ball that looked like a lost cause, which was an example of the effort both teams exerted in a game that had a postseason vibe.

“It was so intense,” said Taj Gibson, who made key defensive plays down the stretch for the second consecutive night. “It was a game we really needed to see how tough we could be.”

Luol Deng only made three field goals but two were huge three-pointers down the stretch. C.J. Watson had 12 points to lead the Bench Mob, which provided critical scoring, defense and energy, including six consecutive points from Ronnie Brewer when it was needed most. Noah had 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Gary Neal scored 15 of his 21 in the fourth quarter for the Spurs and Duncan came alive in the second half to finish with 18 and 10 rebounds.

Handing the Spurs their second home loss was more impressive considering the Bulls were playing on back-to-back nights and arrived in San Antonio at 3 a.m.

“Coach is extremely happy with us and we’re extremely happy with ourselves,” Rose said.

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