Derrick Rose owed every teammate who played Wednesday night a big thank you.
The short-handed Bulls won their third consecutive game, beating the Washington Wizards 109-104 at the United Center even though Rose bailed out on them again.
After putting together possibly his best three-game stretch since his 2010-11 MVP season, Rose reverted to an all-too-familiar move that has infuriated the Bulls’ fan base the last three-plus years. He pulled himself out of the starting lineup just over an hour before tipoff.
“Just don’t want to take any risks,’’ Rose said of the soreness in his right hamstring. “I love the way I’m playing. I feel like I’m playing to win. I feel like I’m in a good mood, a great place mentally. Just trying not to risk all of it by going out there and playing crazy.’’
So he didn’t, missing his eighth game. By the way, the Bulls (30-26) are 6-2 when Rose is out.
But this one was different, especially considering how well Rose had been playing since the All-Star break. He was averaging 26 points, had 17 rebounds and 14 assists and was shooting 57 percent (31-for-54) from the field in the three games.
Rose showed glimpses of the athleticism that made him an elite player and had added a new wrinkle, a midrange bank shot.
On top of that, the Bulls were doing everything they could to keep a grip on the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference with the Wizards (26-30) trying to close the gap.
But it didn’t take long for Rose to sour the good feelings that were building around him.
“[I felt some soreness] a little bit [Tuesday] after we practiced, while we were practicing,’’ Rose said. “Then [Wednesday] morning, that’s when I really felt it.’’
So whom did he consult before opting to sit? “Myself,’’ Rose said.
The Bulls already were without Jimmy Butler (left knee) and Nikola Mirotic (appendicitis) and were almost without Pau Gasol, who was battling flu symptoms the 48 hours leading up to the game.
Looking worn down, Gasol made the decision to give it a go, and he came up one assist shy of a triple-double, scoring 10 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and handing out nine assists. He was so ill that he didn’t even address the media after the game.
“It shows what Pau’s all about,’’ Doug McDermott said. “He cares so much about the team. He’s been doing this a really long time. We really matter to him.’’
Which brings up the question, how much do they matter to Rose?
The Bulls had seven players in double figures, led by E’Twaun Moore and Taj Gibson with 17 points apiece. McDermott scored 14 off the bench.
Whether Rose plays Friday in Atlanta was still up in the air, but coach Fred Hoiberg gave him a pass.
“Derrick knows his body, and with the hamstring the way it was, he came in and talked to me first, the symptoms and everything,’’ Hoiberg said. “I was fully on board to take the cautious approach.’’
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