Derrick Rose vs. Michael Carter-Williams one of many great matchups

SHARE Derrick Rose vs. Michael Carter-Williams one of many great matchups
SHARE Derrick Rose vs. Michael Carter-Williams one of many great matchups

It’s a small sample size, and a flawed one at that.

Bulls guard Derrick Rose only has faced Michael Carter-Williams once — last season, when Carter-Williams was a rookie with the 76ers. Rose was coming off surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and was starting only his third game.

Carter-Williams had 26 points, 10 assists and three steals, while Rose had 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting and eight turnovers.

Advantage: rookie.

They’ll take center stage with the Bucks-Bulls first-round series set to start Saturday at the United Center, and Rose is not the player Carter-Williams saw on Nov. 2, 2013. Just ask him.

“I believe I’m one of the best players in the NBA,’’ Rose said after the Bulls’ victory Wednesday against the Hawks.

Carter-Williams will find that out or expose it as false bravado.

It’s likely somewhere in between.

Rose didn’t play more than 28 minutes in the five games since returning from right knee surgery Feb. 27, so there are all kinds of questions about his conditioning.

He also raised some eyebrows against the Hawks, pulling himself out after the first half because of soreness in the left knee.

Still, this is Derrick Rose. He misses the bright lights of the postseason and almost needs the heightened playoff scenario to re-establish his diminishing brand.

“I’m happy with myself, happy with the games that I played in, even the half that I played in Wednesday,’’ Rose said. “Saturday is no excuses.’’

Plus, if things get bad for Rose, coach Tom Thibodeau could always throw Jimmy Butler on Carter-Williams and call it a day. Advantage: Rose — BULLS

Shooting Guard: Jimmy Butler vs. Khris Middleton

Both made huge strides this season, but few shooting guards are as talented as Butler on both sides of the ball. Butler will start off on Middleton but could jump to Carter-Williams if the need arises. Advantage: Butler — BULLS

Small Forward: Mike Dunleavy vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo

The “Greek Freak’’ has no true position and likely could face Joakim Noah when the Bucks have the ball instead of Dunleavy. His versatility is his greatest weapon, and his length will test the Bulls on both ends. Plus, Dunleavy’s left knee could be an issue. Advantage: Antetokounmpo — BUCKS

Power Forward: Joakim Noah vs. Ersan Ilyasova

Again, Thibodeau can cross-match Noah with Antetokounmpo, leaving Dunleavy on Ilyasova, but either way, it’s about making sure the stretch-four doesn’t get hot from outside. Noah’s left knee is a big concern, but this is his time of year. Advantage: Noah — BULLS

Center: Pau Gasol vs. Zaza Pachulia

In four games against the Bucks this season, Gasol averaged 24.3 points and 13.3 rebounds, including a 46-point performance against Milwaukee in January. The Bucks have no answer for the Bulls big man. Advantage: Gasol —BULLS

Coaching: Tom Thibodeau vs. Jason Kidd

Kidd has done a great job with the up-and-coming Bucks, but the season ends here. As many problems as the Bulls have had this season, Thibodeau pulled 50 wins from this group, minutes restrictions and all. Advantage: Thibodeau — BULLS

Series Prediction: Bulls in five.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @suntimes_hoops

The Latest
The conditions of the wounded were not immediately known.
Tiger Woods winced his way to a 4-over 74 on the same course where he won the 2009 PGA.
The 21-year-old went into the water with friends about 8:10 p.m. in the 9800 block of South Walton Drive, Chicago police said.
Stroman held the Diamondbacks to two earned runs in five innings in the Cubs’ 3-1 loss.