The night started with the shocking news that Derrick Rose would miss a game for the first time in more than a year.
As time passed, Rose’s injury was eclipsed by the fact that his replacement, John Lucas III, erupted for 25 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds in an otherwise ugly 78-64 victory over the beyond-lowly Washington Wizards at the United Center.
Shocker No. 3 was contained in a certain column of the stat sheet, as pointed out by Bulls forward Kyle Korver.
“We have a lot of confidence in John,” Korver said. “Before the game, we all thought he was going to get 20 (points). We didn’t know he’d shoot 28 shots. We all thought he’d score 20 points, though.”
With that, Korver turned and looked at Lucas, sitting at a nearby locker, and everyone had a good laugh.
That’s what happens when a team is good enough — or the opponent is bad enough — to record another victory without the league’s MVP on the floor.
“When you see the W’s keep stacking up, you don’t question how you got it,” said Luol Deng. “It’s just a W.”
The Bulls (10-2) have allowed an average of just 67.5 points in four home games this season.
Lucas ended up shooting 11-for-28 from the field. But that can be forgiven, considering the offense was out of sync and there were plenty of times when it was up to Lucas to create something out of nothing.
This was the 70th game of Lucas’ NBA career and his first start. No matter how you slice it, he outplayed Washington counterpart John Wall, who finished with 11 points, 8 assists and hit 4 of 13 shots.
“John Wall and all them are great players,” Lucas said. “But when you go against D-Rose in practice, nothing surprising is going to step in front of you. I don’t care who it is.”
Rose was injured in the first quarter of Tuesday’s win at Minnesota when Timberwolves power forward Anthony Tolliver fell on his lower legs.
After the game, Rose said he aggravated a turf-toe injury. He finished that game and still managed to produce an impressive 31 points and 11 assists.
Before Wednesday’s contest, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose’s injury was more of a sprain than turf toe.
“Hopefully he’ll be back in a day,” Thibodeau said. “They said it’s a sprain, different from turf toe. It’s day to day and it’s when the pain subsides where he can play.”
As a precaution, the Bulls also signed veteran guard Mike James from the D-League on Wednesday. James arrived from Erie, Pa., right around game time, made it to the bench late in the first quarter and played the final 40 seconds.
Lucas was an ironman, logging nearly 46 minutes of playing time. With the Bulls playing their third game in three nights, Deng gutted out 45 minutes. He looked tired at times and hit just 5 of 21 shots but grabbed 15 rebounds.
“I have a newfound respect for D-Rose and all the players who’ve played 45, 48 minutes a game,” Lucas said. “You had to grind it out.
“I started cramping up in the third quarter. I kept telling myself, ‘Keep fighting.’ Nothing was going to pull me out of this game.”
Lucas found out on his way to the arena that Rose wouldn’t be playing. The son of the longtime NBA guard of the same name beat his previous career high of 16 points, which he set Saturday in Atlanta.
Korver added 14 points, while Omer Asik grabbed 14 rebounds.
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