Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler combine for 58 points, staying on a collision course with Cleveland

SHARE Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler combine for 58 points, staying on a collision course with Cleveland

MILWAUKEE – The collision course has always seemed inevitable.

Since the Eastern Conference playoff seedings were set, few were expecting it to be anything other than Bulls-Cleveland Cavaliers in Round 2.

Thursday was just one step closer. Not an easy step, but definitely one step closer.

Thanks to Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler combining for 58 points, including scoring eight in that second overtime, the Bulls took full control of the best-of-seven series, this time beating Milwaukee 113-106 in double overtime at the Bradley Center.

The win put the Bulls up 3-0 in the series, while the Cavaliers matched it, taking a commanding 3-0 lead over the Boston Celtics.

So certainly the Cavs have to be on Rose’s radar, right?

“Hell no. I’m not thinking ahead,’’ Rose, who scored a season-best 34 points, insisted. “Just trying to get better every game and push myself.’’

Check and check.

Easing his way into games far too often this season, Rose’s approach in Game 3 was to just kick the door down from the start.

Playing in just his eighth game since returning from Feb. 27 right knee surgery, Rose came out in the first quarter and went 3-for-4 from the field, as well as warning Milwaukee that his outside shot was on by hitting 2-of-3 from beyond the three-point line.

A running theme throughout the game, as Rose finished 5-for-9 from long distance, and the Bulls finished 14-for-33 (42.4 percent) from three-point range as a team.

“The way he’s playing right now is similar to the way he was playing right before the All-Star Break,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said of Rose after the win. “Playing in those five games [at the end of the regular season] was helpful to him and us. Because of the intensity of the playoffs, that’s why I thought those five games were important for him. In general, just the play-making and being on the floor, it just opens everything up.’’

That’s also why Thibodeau had no problem with Rose playing a season-high 48 minutes.

“We’re playing against a hungry team,’’ Rose said. “They’re pushing us. All I’m doing is pushing myself for every game. It’s the playoffs, you have to love it.

“I’m just doing whatever the game tells me to do. The way we run our offense, you don’t know who is going to get the shot.’’

Rose did acknowledge that he has been attack-mode, however.

“This is playoff basketball,’’ Rose said. “Just trying to push myself. I’m just playing. No expectations, having fun and I love to compete.’’

And maybe for the first time since the Bulls drafted Rose, he has a running mate in the backcourt. While Rose was filling up the stat sheet with eight assists and five rebounds to go along with his scoring, Butler had three steals and two blocks to compliment his 24 points.

“Got one now,’’ Rose said, when discussing playing alongside another star in the backcourt.

Butler was told what Rose said after his third-straight playoff game of at least 24 points and responded, “It means a lot. Derrick is a hell of a player. I just try and do my role. Playing with Derrick he makes everything easier for everybody. Playing my role, I’m good with that.’’

The Bulls will have a chance to close out the series on Saturday. Game 4 for Cleveland and Boston is on Sunday.

The collision is coming.

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