Chicago might have been wondering what to expect from Derrick Rose in his first playoff appearance in three years.
In a way, the Bulls were, too. That’s why his impressive 23-point, seven-assist outing was so huge to his teammates.
“I love it. I love it,’’ Taj Gibson said with a big grin. “We haven’t had him in the playoffs with us for a while now. It feels so good to have one of our scorers, one of our leaders, back. It was a great feeling to see him take over at times, to be aggressive.’’
It all added up to a rousing 103-91 win over the Bucks in the opener of their playoff series Saturday.
Gibson, who played a bruising, physical game, said his apparent shoulder and knee issues will not be a problem.
As an added bonus, the teams put on a show in the first half. Expected to lock horns in an old-fashioned trench battle, the Bulls and Bucks erupted for 111 first-half points, with the Bulls holding a 60-51 edge.
The United Center crowd of 21,812 didn’t mind at all.
In their last three regular-season meetings, neither team got to 50 points at the half. The Bucks didn’t even manage 40 points in two of those first halves.
But here these defensive teams were flinging in all kinds of shots.
“They did a good job of trying to get into us early,’’ Gibson said.
It was the highest-scoring game in the five meetings between the teams this season.
“Their defense is aggressive to the ball, to the strong side,’’ Pau Gasol said. “But that puts you in a weaker position when a team is willing to move the ball like we are. Because of our unselfishness, we made them pay for that aggressiveness.’’
That said, the Bulls are intent on cutting down on their 19 turnovers in Game 2 on Monday.
“I had a coach who once said a series doesn’t start until a team wins on the road,’’ Gasol said. “Today we did what we had to do. Now we have to be ready for the next one.’’
With Rose looking good, the Bulls are feeling good. But only up to a point.
“When he has one of those penetrations that only he can do, it’s always energizing for us and our fans,’’ Gasol said. “It makes a big difference [having Rose]. There’s no doubt about that. He was effective. He was aggressive. It was a complete game for him. It was a good game for us. Let’s see about the next one.’’
Mike Dunleavy also cautioned against drawing too many conclusions.
“It’s probably not what everybody expected,’’ he said of the offensive outburst. “For us to get over 100 for the first time in [five] games against these guys is good. But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.’’