After losing in the Eastern Conference finals last season, the Bulls set out to find more help for Derrick Rose.
On nights like these, the one-man gang doesn't seem like such a bad strategy.
Rose delivered 35 points and 8 assists as the Bulls avenged one of their ugliest losses of the season by beating Philadelphia 96-91 on Sunday at the Wachovia Center.
Now comes the second leg of the revenge tour against Indiana today at the United Center. When the Pacers beat the Bulls in Chicago on Jan. 25, Rose vowed not to forget his vision of Indiana celebrating on his home court.
For now, the Bulls (31-8) moved back into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference, thanks to Miami's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Rose's performance led to desperate defensive measures. After the Bulls used a 15-2 run early in the fourth quarter to break open a tie game, Sixers coach Doug Collins began aggressively double-teaming Rose on every possession.
That's a strategy the Bulls used to see most every night, but not many teams have used it this season. The all-out blitz helped get Philadelphia back into contention. A bad pass by Rose led to a lay-in from Thaddeus Young, pulling the Sixers within 87-85 with 2:50 left.
C.J. Watson and Carlos Boozer scored for the Bulls, but Young (17 points) answered with a basket each time to keep it a 2-point game.
That's when Rose finished things off in impressive fashion.
As the Sixers started to bring a double-team, Rose turned on the jets, dribbled left-handed down the side of the lane, jumped, pivoted and dropped in a running right-handed shot from about 8 feet.
"I don't shoot it with my left hand at all. I'm not that good yet," Rose told reporters after the game. "I just saw an opening. My floater's all right, and I just got it up there."
Rose's floater made it 93-89 with 20 seconds left. The Sixers had a chance to tie, but Andre Iguodala badly missed a 3-pointer with about three seconds on the clock.
"He (Rose) reads it," coach Tom Thibodeau said of the double-teams. "There are certain times when he was setting them up with the pass. Then he saw a seam. He sees it so much now, that it's become instinctive to him."
Rose dominated the scoring, but center Joakim Noah helped out with a season-high 18 rebounds, to go with 11 points. Boozer contributed 13 points, Watson had 9 off the bench, while Luol Deng saved his best for last.
After going scoreless during the first three quarters, Deng scored 8 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers during the tiebreaking 15-2 run.
"He's so mentally tough. He was guarding everybody out there," Thibodeau said of Deng. "Offensively, he has a lot of poise. He reads the game well. He doesn't force things."
When these teams played in Philadelphia on Feb. 1, the Bulls lost 98-82, one of their worst loss of the season, along with a 16-point loss at Memphis.