To some, it won’t be official until the regular-season opener, but in Chicago, Derrick Rose’s return became official Wednesday night, as the Chicago native’s first game back at the United Center since he tore his left ACL was a triumphant one, as the point guard led the Bulls to an easy 96-81 win over the Detroit Pistons, scoring 22 points in 22 minutes of the team’s preseason home opener.
Rose scored on the Bulls’ first possession of the contest, electrifying the partisan home crowd with a driving left-handed layup in his signature attacking style, resulting in a reaction fit more for the playoffs than the team’s exhibition schedule. The former league MVP remained aggressive throughout the opening period, repeatedly penetrating to the rim and helping the Bulls build an early cushion in the team’s preseason home opener, which was also Joakim Noah’s (eight rebounds) season debut after the All-Star center missed the squad’s first three exhibition contest with a groin strain.
The Bulls’ second unit kept the momentum going and buoyed by backup big man Taj Gibson (11 points, 12 rebounds), the team’s top player through their first three preseason games, they led, 24-16, after a quarter of play.
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Behind underrated power forward Greg Monroe and rookie shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (team-high 18 points), the Pistons crept back into the contest against the Bulls’ reserves.
But veteran guard Kirk Hinrich and rookie swingman Tony Snell (12 points) led a charge by the hosts, as the Bulls went on a 15-3 run to break open what was a two-possession affair earlier in the second quarter. Snell displayed the potential that convinced the Bulls to select him 20th overall in June’s NBA Draft, as he scored 10 first-half points on 4-for-5 shooting, including 2-for-3 from three-point range, but also dished out three assists, played active defense and showed a nice overall feel for the game.
The end of the half was a fitting one: Rose made another aggressive jaunt to the basket, made an acrobatic finish and drew the foul with 1.3 seconds remaining in the stanza. Playing in his hometown for the first time since April 28, 2012, the point guard elicited that familiar “M-V-P” chant and knocked down the ensuing free throw, giving him 18 points (on 4-for-6 shooting from the field and 9-for-10 on free throws) in just 14 minutes and pushing the Bulls’ advantage to a 55-34 lead at the break.
After the intermission, the Bulls maintained their comfortable advantage and while the outset of the third quarter saw Rose throw down the first United Center dunk of his comeback campaign, it was the Bulls’ trademark stifling defense that ensured things continued to go smoothly.
Rose didn’t need to repeat his dominant first-half scoring effort, as power forward Carlos Boozer (10 points, 11 rebounds), who quietly notched a double-double—he also finished a textbook fast break led by fellow Duke products Luol Deng and Mike Dunleavy Jr., who started in place of the injured Jimmy Butler—helped pick up the slack after the hometown hero took a seat with 22 points in 22 minutes of play.
Heading into the final frame, the Bulls had a comfortable 76-53 edge over the visitors and they’d continue to cruise the rest of the way. Detroit didn’t put up much of a fight and even if the Central Division foes had, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
The crowd got what they came to see: Rose’s return to his home court and things seeming like old times once again.