CHICAGO (AP)—Derrick Rose would love nothing more than to let out a primal scream after a big basket or emerge as a vocal leader.
He just can’t right now. It’s not in his nature.
While Rose hopes to show more fire someday, the Chicago Bulls will take the sort of cool contribution he made on Saturday.
The rookie who led Memphis to the NCAA final last year buried that city’s NBA team, scoring 26 points in his best game to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 96-86 victory over the Grizzlies.
Kirk Hinrich added 18 points, but the night belonged to Rose, the No. 1 draft pick and Chicago native.
“I’ve just got to show a little more emotion,” he said. “It’s very hard. I don’t know why, but it’s hard.”
At times, Rose made it look easy against Memphis.
He scored 10 points in the second quarter to keep the Bulls within eight at halftime and followed that with a strong second half. He scored four points during a 9-1 run midway through the fourth quarter that increased Chicago’s lead to 90-81, and Chicago hung on from there.
“He came out very aggressive offensively,” Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said. “He made some shots. He played loose, wasn’t worried about them going in or not, and I think that helped him make ‘em.”
Hinrich was 5-of-7 on 3-pointers. Drew Gooden grabbed 20 rebounds, and Chicago pulled this one out after losing by 16 at defending champion Boston the previous night thanks in part to a 51-43 edge on the boards.
Gay scored 20 after pouring in 29 and hitting the winning 18-footer against Orlando on Friday. Warrick added 18 points and seven rebounds, while Mayo, the No. 3 pick, scored 16.
The Grizzlies were within 81-79 when Chicago’s Ben Gordon hit two free throws with 7:16 left to start the clinching spurt. Darko Milicic answered with a free throw, but a dunk by Rose sent the Bulls on their way.
Gooden hit a baseline jumper at the shot-clock buzzer to make it a seven-point game, and Warrick got called for a technical a minute later after Andres Nocioni leaned into him while going up for a jumper after the shot clock expired. Hinrich hit the free throw, and Rose converted two more after a flagrant foul by Kyle Lowry, making it 90-80 with 4:15 remaining.
“We really have to learn to put teams away,” said Gay, whose team has blown second-half leads in both losses.
Rose came up big after a slow first quarter.
He scored six points over the final three minutes of the opening half, keeping the Bulls within 50-42, and he started the third quarter with consecutive baskets before Thabo Sefolosha scored on a layup to make it a two-point game.
Mayo then hit a 3-pointer for Memphis after a timeout to make it 53-50. But with the lead at five, the Bulls went on a 10-point run that ended with Sefolosha feeding Rose on the break for a layup and the rookie returning the favor following a block by Tyrus Thomas that made it 58-55. Chicago finished the quarter with another flourish, scoring the final six points to take a 75-70 lead after Memphis went ahead.
Milicic’s hook shot to start the fourth and Mayo’s jumper made it a one-point game, and it remained tight until that clinching spurt.
Rose is off to a good start, averaging a team-high 18.3 points, and his quiet demeanor makes him a natural fit on a laid-back team. It’s something he wants to change.
After seeing the Celtics, he thinks that’s the way to go.
“That was an emotional team,” he said. “They talked to each other. There wasn’t one time on the court when they weren’t talking to each other. They were having fun.”
Former coach Scott Skiles begged for a leader to emerge on the Bulls, often saying that his team was perhaps too nice. He wanted his players to show more emotion, to channel it in a positive way.
“While you’re on the court, you’ve got to be more aggressive,” Rose said.
Thomas blocked five shots. … Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro is open to juggling the lineup, but he has gone with the same starters in all three games— Rose and Thabo Sefolosha in the backcourt with Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas and Gooden up front. “It’s so early,” Del Negro said. “We’ve only played a couple games. I want to give these guys an opportunity.” … The Bulls are 11-2 at home against the Grizzlies.