ORLANDO, Fla. --- Derrick Rose said he wasn't going to change his game because of his sore left elbow or because Dwight Howard is not only the most imposing defender in the league but also delivered two hard fouls on Rose in the past.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he didn't want Rose changing, either, but Rose did adapt his game a smige, and he and his team were the better for it during their sixth straight win, a resounding 97-83 victory over the Magic on Friday night at the Amway Center.
"Quite simply, we're not on that level right now," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "That's OK. I'm not saying that crying or complaining. That's just how it is. You've got to face reality we've got to put in the work to reach that level."
Rose's didn't go hard to the rim to score his first two points of the game. Instead, he penetrated and shot a high arcing floater over the 6-foot-11 Howard. He used the same shot to knot the score at 19 in the second quarter. It was no coincidence. He would use that same approach several more times, which was the latest example of Rose's increased maturity.
He finished at the rim twice in the second half when Howard was not an impediment before crashing into Glen "Big Baby" Davis and drawing a foul.
"A lot of floaters tonight, a lot of floaters," said Rose, who finished with 21 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. "I got fouled a few times but they didn't call it. I'm used to throwing floaters up and tonight some of them fell."
There was no reason for him to beat his head --- or elbow --- against a brick wall --- or in this case Howard's chiseled frame. The best players adapt their games to different situations. This situation clearly called for a slightly different. With backup point guard C.J. Watson still nursing his own sprained elbow, and Rip Hamilton on the bench with a sore groin, the Bulls couldn't afford to lose Rose, who bruised his elbow after crashing to the floor late in Wednesday's win over the Pistons.
Rose was determined to play. The training staff used ice, electric stimulation and a sleeve to keep the swelling down. His elbow was wrapped and he wore a less cumbersome sleeve over it during the game.
"I don't want him to change who he is," Thibodeau said. "He's an attacking guy. He gets hit. He gets up and he'll go again and again and again. That's who Derrick is. That's what makes him so special."
The Bulls used a 15-2 run in the second quarter to lead by 10 at the break. They extended their advantage to 17 when Rose dunked Luol Deng's alley oop midway through the third. The Magic rallied when the Bulls went cold in the fourth, pulling to within three on a Howard hook shot before the Bulls ended the game with a 15-3 run.
"We're used to being in those situations," Rose said. "The guys that were in were used to the play calls and play sets and who was getting the ball at certain times. Everybody knows their role toward the end of the game."
Luol Deng bounced back from his two-point performance against Detroit with 21 points and five assists. Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver hit big shots down the stretch and finished with 20 and 18, respectively. Boozer also had 13 rebounds while Joakim Noah had 10 while defending Howard, who had a game-high 28 points and 15 rebounds.
"It was all right," Rose said of his elbow afterwards. "Other than the play where I went to the hole and Big Baby fouled me, other than that I was fine."
Change can be good. In this case, Rose adapting his game, even if in a small way, was the smart thing to do.