Chicago (35-16) remains in the hunt for the Eastern Conference’s best record. The Bulls enter Saturday three games behind Miami and 2 1/2 behind Boston as they close a five-game road trip against teams from the West.
After consecutive losses to Golden State and Portland, Chicago defeated Utah 91-86 on Wednesday to even its record on the trip at 2-2. Rose finished with 29 points and seven assists, and came up with a big steal with 1:05 remaining as he outplayed Deron Williams(notes), who had five turnovers.
“He’s been playing like that the whole season,” Bulls forward Carlos Boozer(notes) said of Rose, averaging 27.8 points on the road trip. “It’s why we keep chanting his name for MVP because he’s been phenomenal all year.”
After dominating Williams, Rose will face another tough matchup in Paul and the Hornets (33-22).
Rose’s Bulls have won all three of his previous matchups against Paul, including a 108-106 overtime victory at New Orleans on Jan. 29, 2010, the teams’ last meeting. Rose had 18 points, including two key free throws, in the win while Paul had 18 points and 12 assists for the Hornets.
The Bulls will try to keep up the defensive intensity against the Hornets after stifling the Jazz. Chicago is holding opponents to an average of 88.1 points over its last 11 games.
The Hornets are looking for a second straight win after snapping their four-game losing streak Friday with a 99-93 victory at Orlando.
“This was very needed,” said Paul, who had 15 points and seven assists. “After four losses in a row sometimes you forget what it’s like to win. When we came out of that last timeout midway through the fourth quarter, I told the fellas: ‘Let’s win it. We’ve had enough close ones. Let’s take this game.’ And we did that.”
Paul bounced back after being held to nine points in a 103-101 overtime loss to New Jersey on Wednesday. Putting a damper on his Friday, the league announced it was fining Paul $15,000 for verbal abuse of a game official following to defeat against the Nets.
The Hornets have lost their last two home games after winning 20 of their first 25 at New Orleans Arena. The Bulls have won their last two visits.
New Orleans has struggled in back-to-back scenarios, going 5-7 when playing for the second consecutive night.