- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Forget the final score.
Forget the fact that the Bulls are now just one win away from locking up the best record in the league for the second year in a row. All of that doesn't matter unless Derrick Rose is healthy. The good news for Bulls fans is that he looked a little bit more like himself during Wednesday night's 92-87 win over the Indiana Pacers.
"A lot more explosive," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said of Rose. "I just think he's gotten more comfortable. He was out a long period of time. When he comes back, he usually gets up to speed pretty quickly. He said this morning that he was feeling a lot better and that's after two days of practice, too. That's a real good sign, we're encouraged by that."
Yes, Rose was just 3-for-11 from the field and still didn't have the burst that he usually does, but his coach was far more concerned with the fact he looked more comfortable on the floor.
"I thought he had some real good attacks on the basket," Thibodeau said. "The ball was just in and out for him. But seven assists, one turnover, taking care of the ball, running the team. I thought that was very good."
His teammates thought they saw glimpses of the old Rose as well.
"He's still feeling it out a little bit, you can tell," Bulls guard Kyle Korver said. "I think he was trying to set guys up, trying to attack, but trying to pick his spots. I thought he looked better than he did the other night for sure."
In Rose's mind, he is improving a little more each time he gets on the floor.
"Just pushing off, every day it's getting better," he said. "I'm not trying to do too much out there, just trying to play with the team. Try not to get re-injured, that's the biggest thing, and making sure I'm playing with a lot of confidence."
While Rose's confidence is improving, he admitted that he isn't driving to the rim the same way yet.
"I'm making sure that they're clean drives," he said. "I'm not getting hit that much. And I'm just trying to put pressure on the defense like I was when I wasn't injured."
For his teammates, the fact that he is trying to work out his issues with them is still the best sign of all. They think he will get back to playing his way soon.
"I don't think there's a certain amount of games or anything," Korver said. "I think there's going to be a couple plays where you just [say] 'Yep, there it is.' And that's going to be it. I don't think you look at it in terms of games or weeks or series or whatever you think it's going to be. I think there's going to be a couple plays, where all of a sudden he really moves on that foot and that ankle and he makes a great play and we're all just going to know and be like, 'All right. Let's go.'"
Bulls center Joakim Noah echoed those sentiments. He feels the extra boost when Rose is on the floor and he enjoys having his close friend back.
"It's a great sign," Noah said. "I think everybody knows it's an important sign for us. It's good to have him aggressive and right now we're playing for us. Just trying to play good basketball for when it really, really starts."
Rose still believes he has the ability to take over games right now, even if his body isn't in the kind of shape he wants it to be at the moment. He believes that with a little more time, he will back to the level he was before all the injuries started to pile up.
"I'm not worried about that," Rose said. "I'm going to be all right. Where certain situations, if the game was in a crazy type of [situation] at the end, I need to take over, that's what I'm going to try and do. If not, I'm going to still play my game, play aggressive."
The treatment program: Before addressing the media in the locker room after the game, Rose had his foot and ankle checked out by athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi. He said he felt fine and the treatment program would continue.
"It feels good," he said. "Getting treatment, icing it, even when I'm at home, doing the same thing, icing it as much as possible. The swelling's down and hopefully I should be ready [Thursday] and for the playoffs."
The last word: "It will be about the same. We'll see where we are. I want our starters to get more time together. So it will be similar to tonight, but we'll see how the game unfolds. I just want us to continue to take it step by step. Just get ready [Thursday], have a great walk-through, know Cleveland and then the rest takes care of itself. Don't worry about all the other stuff," -- Thibodeau, on how much he will play the starters during Thursday night's regular-season finale against the Cavs.
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
1dJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info