They will feel even better Tuesday if their homecoming ends the same way as that lengthy trek did, with the Eastern Conference rookie of the month leading them to a victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Chicago (8-9) capped off its seven-game road trip, caused by the circus being at the United Center, with one of its best overall performances of the season Sunday by defeating the 76ers 103-92. While shooting a season-high 52.1 percent from the field, the Bulls held an opponent below 98 points for the first time on the road swing, finishing 3-4.
Led by Rose’s season-high 10 assists, the Bulls handed out 26 assists on 38 field goals.
“I’m feeling good and taking it game by game,” said Rose, who is averaging 6.0 assists - tops among all rookies. “We’re moving the ball and finding the open person. We’re playing team basketball and that’s what it’s all about.”
The production of Rose, who had six of his 18 points during a 12-0 run to end the decisive third quarter, was a pivotal factor as the Bulls split the last six games of the trip. He averaged 22.7 points and 8.0 assists in the three wins, compared to 10.3 points and 4.3 assists in the three losses.
“I think by us spreading out the basketball the way we did, we were really consistent with our effort in the zone and we got in transition,” said coach Vinny Del Negro, whose Bulls now go for their third straight home win.
The 76ers (7-10) are one of the league’s worst road teams at 2-6, and they had enough trouble with the Bulls back in Philadelphia, getting outscored 31-11 in the third quarter on Sunday.
“We’ve got to step it up,” said Elton Brand, who posted his eighth double-double of the season with 21 points and 12 boards. “We’ve lost two games in a row where the other team has taken it to us.”
Brand, the first overall pick by the Bulls in 1999, is averaging 18.2 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in five career games in Chicago when playing for the visiting team.
The 76ers have dropped four in a row since winning five of six. They have averaged 87.0 points during this losing streak and have gone seven consecutive games without scoring 100 points, their longest such drought since going 15 straight in December 2006.
The Sixers aren’t doing the job on the defensive end, either.
After allowing 93.0 points per game and 43.5 percent shooting in its first 13 games, Philadelphia is giving up an average of 98.5 points and 51.3 percent shooting during its four-game skid.
“We have to get ourselves back in the mind-set of defending,” Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said.
These teams split four meetings last season, but Philadelphia won both of its visits to Chicago.