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Rose helps Bulls take 2nd in East — though a break might do him good

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Derrick Rose acknowledged he might be prolonging the effects of stomach ulcers by playing through them. But the Bulls guard just can’t pull himself out of the lineup, even resorting to calling the meeting with the 17-26 Indiana Pacers ‘‘an important game’’ to justify playing Saturday night.

‘‘I probably would benefit from [not playing], but this is an important game,’’ Rose said. ‘‘It’ll take a lot to get me to not play. I’m just trying to not let up. We’re all going so good right now. We’re going to do anything to get this win. If that’s me playing just a couple of minutes or whatever, I’m willing to do it.’’

The importance of the game is up for debate. But after Rose overcame a subpar first half to spark the Bulls to a 110-89 victory over the Pacers at the United Center, there’s little doubt left that Rose can make a difference if he thinks he can.

Just when it looked like the stomach ailment had gotten to him, when he had scored five points on 1-for-5 shooting in the first half, Rose elicited chants of ‘‘MVP!’’ from the sellout crowd with a sterling second-half performance. He scored 15 of his 20 points in the first 13 minutes of the second half as the Bulls (33-14) improved to 23-4 at the United Center and 11-0 against the Central Division and moved a half-game ahead of the Miami Heat into second place in the Eastern Conference.

‘‘I kind of took it easy before halftime,’’ said Rose, who had eight assists. ‘‘In the second half, I tried to be aggressive, taking shots they were giving me, and they were just falling.’’

Rose shot 7-for-10 in the second half to finish 8-for-17. And he didn’t wait for the game to come to him. He hit a pull-up 19-footer 21 seconds into the third quarter, then another pull-up jumper a minute later to give the Bulls a 59-51 lead. He hit four more long jumpers as the Bulls led 81-72 in the first minute of the fourth quarter.

‘‘I told him on the bench, ‘I can’t tell you how proud I am of you to be going through what you’re going through,’’ said Carlos Boozer, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds. ‘‘It would be easy for him to sit down like other stars around the league might do. But he fights through all that stuff because he knows he can get out there and give us whatever he’s got. It tells you how tough our point guard is.’’

Kyle Korver scored 16 points and Ronnie Brewer had a highlight-reel dunk off a feed from Luol Deng (19 points, eight assists) as the Pacers (now 17-27) never got closer than eight points.

Still unable to eat solid foods, Rose said before the game he was ‘‘a little fatigued’’ after playing 38 minutes against the Orlando Magic on Friday night, but he downed some Pedialyte and protein shakes before the game and was ready to go.

And it’s his call.

‘‘If he feels good, he plays,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said.

‘‘I’d rather him play,’’ Boozer said. ‘‘He’s 22. We rely on him very heavily. But something he told me in training camp came back to me — he was built for this. This is something he’s been waiting on for a while, so he doesn’t want to miss any games.

‘‘You heard him before the regular season — he wants to be MVP. MVPs don’t take days off.’’

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