April 18, 2015
CHICAGO — Derrick Rose had 23 points and seven assists in his first postseason game in three years, Jimmy Butler scored 25 points, and the Chicago Bulls opened the playoffs with a 103-91 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.
Rose was at his fearless best, driving hard to the rim in the early going, and mixed in three 3-pointers in the second half. He shot 9 of 16 and got serenaded with "MVP! MVP!" chants.
It was quite a night for a superstar point guard making his first playoff appearance since he tore a knee ligament in the 2012 playoff opener against Philadelphia.
Chicago hosts Game 2 on Monday.
Khris Middleton scored 18 points and Zaza Pachulia had 15, but Michael Carter Williams finishing with nine on 4-of-13 shooting as the sixth-seeded Bucks came up short after jumping from 15 wins to 41 this season.
Butler showed the form that made him an All-Star for the first time this season. He was 8 of 14 and had six assists.
Aaron Brooks provided a spark off the bench with 13 points, and the Bulls opened the series on a winning note after fighting through injuries to finish 50-32.
They led by nine at halftime and hung on after the Bucks pulled within three points early in the third quarter.
The Bulls won despite committing 19 turnovers. They outrebounded Milwaukee 52-41, with Pau Gasol grabbing 13 and Joakim Noah and rookie Nikola Mirotic 11 apiece.
The Bulls believe they are poised to make a run now that they finally have Rose playing in the postseason. The last time they had him for the duration of the playoffs, he capped an MVP season by leading them to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011. Chicago lost to Miami, and what happened after that is well documented.
The Bulls earned the No. 1 seed for the second straight year in 2012, only to have Rose tear his ACL late in a lopsided playoff-opening win over Philadelphia. Chicago lost in the first round to the 76ers and had its championship hopes placed on hold, with Rose sitting out a year and having his comeback get cut short last season by a torn meniscus in his right knee.
This was a good start.
Chicago took a 60-51 lead to the locker room after getting 17 points from Butler and 12 from Rose.
The star point guard headed to the sideline to a loud ovation with 1:37 left after throwing down a hard two-handed off a feed from Butler in transition and then scoring on a neat reverse layup that brought the bench to its feet.
The Bucks pulled within three early in the third, but the Bulls answered with a 15-7 run. Rose hit three 3-pointers during that stretch, including one that made it 77-66 with 4:33 left in the quarter.
Bucks: Had he stayed healthy, this would have been quite a homecoming for Jabari Parker. Instead, the Chicago product was an observer as the Bucks opened the playoffs against the Bulls. "He's here with us for the playoff experience mentally, being able to go through different film sessions, and also being able to be on the floor with his teammates, being able to pass to do different drills is good for him mentally and physically," coach Jason Kidd. A season-ending knee injury limited Parker to 25 games after being drafted with the second pick. He averaged 12.3 points and was a candidate for Rookie of the Year before he went down.
Bulls: G Kirk Hinrich (left knee) sat out after missing the final two regular-season games.