In retrospect, the Bulls would have been fine if their star guard had simply taken the night off.
Carlos Boozer scored 18 points and the Bulls won their fourth straight game while nearly holding New Orleans to a franchise low in points during a 90-67 rout Wednesday.
"We're staying humble, staying hungry and we just did a good job of setting the tone defensively," Boozer said. "We did a good job contesting shots, did a good job making them take tough shots, and at the same time I thought we did a good job executing our offense to make the lead grow."
Rose played 22 minutes and finished with six points, six assists and five rebounds. He sat out the entire fourth quarter.
"Give D-Rose a lot of credit, man. He's been playing through it for a while," Boozer said. "Gutsy, gutsy dude, played through it again and then (reserve guard) C.J. (Watson) came in and played great. ... I thought everybody from one through the whole team did a great job."
Rose said his back was "kind of tight," adding that he could have played more but that the team "did a great job of managing my minutes."
Chris Kaman scored 17 for the Hornets, who have lost seven straight and 22 of 24. New Orleans made its last six shots, including Marco Belinelli's 3-pointer with a second left, to narrowly surpass the club low of 65 points.
Hornets coach Monty Williams credited the Bulls for maintaining ferocious intensity while playing a heavy underdog in the midst of a long road trip.
"I believe that that's the way you play if you want to win a championship," Williams said of Chicago. "Everybody on that team knows their role. They have an identity and they live it out every night. I thought we had a tough time with their pressure."
The Hornets have usually maintained a hustling style of play and kept deficits low even as they have lost game after game, but they simply wilted against the Bulls, who had seven layups in the third quarter alone. The Bulls' lead grew to 27 in the period when Rose fed Noah for a fast-break layup.
New Orleans shot 6 of 24 in the period (25 percent) and trailed 70-46 heading into the anticlimactic final quarter, when Chicago's lead grew as large as 88-60 with 1:19 left.
Chicago finished shooting 46 percent (39 of 85), outscoring New Orleans 58-40 in the paint and 12-1 on fast breaks. The Bulls outrebounded New Orleans 49-39.
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau is renowned for his defensive acumen, which spelled trouble for a Hornets squad that came into the game 27th in the NBA in scoring, with an average of just below 88 points. The Hornets finished shooting 37 percent (28 of 75) and committed 19 turnovers while trailing throughout for the third time in nine games.
"The challenge is to be ready to play, and we did that," Thibodeau said. "We have to strive to make improvement and to get better each day, build solid habits and just keep our eye on what's in front of us."
Chicago scored the first nine points of the game while struggling New Orleans missed its first five shots. The Bulls' lead grew to 13 when Noah picked off Kaman's pass and raced the other way for an uncontested dunk.
Kaman helped more than he hurt, though, scoring 10 of New Orleans' 14 points in the first quarter.
Chicago built its lead up to 15 on Gibson's fast-break dunk while Rose was on the bench, and the lead remained in double digits for the remainder of the period. The halftime score stood at 44-31 after Belinelli's layup.
"We're on a mission and we can't take any steps back," Rose said. "It takes us playing with a lot of energy in the beginning and getting a comfortable enough lead that if we're out of the game, the bench can come in and do what they have to do. ... We're learning. The last couple of games we've been jumping on people and that's the right way to be."
Kaman hit a jumper at the first quarter horn that would have given him 12 points at that juncture, but it was reviewed on replay and disallowed. ... The Bulls improved to 5-2 on their nine-game road trip, which concludes with games at Charlotte on Friday and Boston on Sunday. ... The Bulls have won seven straight against New Orleans and will seek a fourth straight season sweep Feb. 28 in Chicago. ... The Hornets last defeated Chicago on March 17, 2008, in New Orleans. ... Jarrett Jack returned from a three-game absence (sore left knee) and started at point guard. He played nearly 28 minutes and had four points and three assists. ... Actor Will Ferrell announced the starting lineups, adding fabricated personal notes about each player. For example, Ferrell said the 6-foot-9, 266-pound Boozer, a 10-year veteran, "still lives with his mother." Afterward, Boozer said it was hard not to laugh at Ferrell's remark: "We're all Will Ferrell fans -- one of the funniest dudes of our generation, man." ... During the game, Ferrell sat courtside with actors Dylan McDermott and Zach Galifianakis, while actor Jesse Eisenberg sat on the baseline. ... The Hornets have scored as few as 65 points twice in team history, once in a victory over Miami on Dec. 20, 2000, and once in a loss to Boston on March 13, 2003.
Stugotz thinks Kobe Bryant was off base in his Players' Tribune letter to his 17-year-old self about how he would have distributed money he made from basketball to his family and friends.
Reese Waters and Sarah Spain break down all the ways Kobe Bryant's well-intentioned letter to his younger self turned into Bryant bashing his own friends and family.
ESPN Thunder reporter Royce Young explains why Enes Kanter has been receiving death threats following the failed military coup in Turkey.