Rose making gradual progress, showing flashes of previous form

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Rose making gradual progress, showing flashes of previous form

INDIANAPOLISFor a reigning league MVP, a 10-point, 3-for-11 shooting, performance wouldnt normally be termed a step in the right direction. However, when that same player has missed 26 games due to injury and the playoffs are right around the corner, you take what you can get.

Derrick Rose wasnt necessarily efficient as a scorer during the Bulls win over the Pacers, but he was both more explosive and aggressive than he was in Saturdays home victory over the Mavericks. The All-Star point guard only played 26 minutes Wednesday, but in addition to only committing a single turnover and dishing out seven assists, he began to regain his confidence in his still-healing right ankle.

Pushing off, every day its getting better. Im not trying to do too much out there, just trying to play within the team and trying not to get reinjured. Thats the biggest thing and making sure Im playing with a lot of confidence, Rose said afterwards. Im making sure that theyre clean drives. Im not getting hit that much and Im just trying to put pressure on the defense like I was when I wasnt injured.

It feels good. Getting treatment, icing it. Even when Im at home, doping the same thing. Icing it as much as possible. The swelling is down and hopefully I should be ready tomorrow and for the playoffs, he continued. I love playing games like this, just getting my rhythm back. Just being out there, playing defense. Trying to rebound, trying to jump off my right ankle and Im coming along, man. Im very positive, my spirits are up and thats the only thing I need to worry about right now.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Rose was a lot more explosive. Hes gotten more comfortable. He was out a long period of time. When he comes back, he usually gets up to speed pretty quickly. He said this morning that he was feeling a lot better and thats after two days of practice, too. So, thats a real good sign. Im encouraged by that.

He had some real good attacks on the basket and the ball was in and out for him, but seven assists, one turnover, taking care of the ball, running the team. I thought that was very good, he continued. Each day he gets better and better, so thats what were looking for and I think hes getting a lot more comfortable. His bodys feeling a lot better and he needs to play, needs to play in games and I think hell get up to speed very quickly.

Rose acknowledged that he wasnt playing at the same level fans are accustomed to seeing, but some of that is due to both his adjustment in returning from injury and his teammates playing so well.

Im just trying to play within the group. Theyve been doing a good job making sure that Im taking my time, not rushing anything when I come off picks, just trying to make the right play, he explained. Im not worried about that. Im going to be all right. Certain situations, if it was a crazy type of game and at the end, I need to take over, thats what Im going to try to do. If not, Im still going to try to play my game, play aggressive.

Chimed in Kyle Korver: We need Derrick to play some. We dont need him to hurt himself or strain anything, but we need him to play and we need to play with him. Tonight, I thought he moved better. I thought he was more aggressive. Hes still trying to feel it out again, but he made a couple plays tonight where I was like, That was good.

I dont think theres a certain amount of games. I just think theres got to be a couple of plays where youre like, Yup, there it is, and thats going to be it. I dont think you can look at it in terms of games or weeks, or series or whatever you think its going to be. I just think its going to be a couple of plays. All of a sudden, he really moves on that foot and that ankle, and he makes a great play and were all just going to know like, All right, lets go, he continued. Hes still feeling it out a little bit. You can tell. I think he was trying to set guys up, trying to attack, but trying to pick his spots. I thought he looked better than he did the other night, for sure.

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

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Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."

Bulls' Rajon Rondo oddly runs behind back of former coach Rick Carlisle

Bulls' Rajon Rondo oddly runs behind back of former coach Rick Carlisle

Is Rajon Rondo avoiding his former coach?

During Tuesday night's Bulls-Mavericks game, Rondo awkwardly ran behind Mavs coach Rick Carlisle as the third quarter was winding down.

Take a look at the play in the video above.

Rondo, who played with the Mavericks in the 2014-15 season, had a weird relationship with Carlisle. Most notably, he and Carlisle had a heated exchange during a game on Feb. 24, 2015 against the Toronto Raptors. It eventually led to Carlisle saying that Rondo was a bad fit for the Mavericks and that the team should have never traded for him.

On Tuesday, Rondo apparently shook Carlisle's hand before he checked in the game for the first time in the first quarter. 

All is well, it seems, but that was still weird.