Derrick Rose scored 29 points against the Knicks after missing 12 games with a groin injury. After sitting out another game because of twisted ankle, he scored only two points on 1 of 13 shooting in Thursday night's overtime win over the Heat at the United Center.
Rose said his sore right ankle for the reason for that disparity. The nagging injury was wrapped in ice after Rose practiced and studied film with coach Tom Thibodeau at the Berto Center on Saturday.
"My ankle hurting and you can't move," Rose said when asked why he was less effective against Miami. "You know how a sore ankle is. The bone is tender. You can't get around like that. It was just one of those games. Amnesia. I forgot about that game and went on to the next one."
Rose has been shooting, running, practicing his runner and playing one-on-one and three-on-three in anticipating on Sunday's game against the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
"When I was out there it was definitely sore," Rose said. "Ankle injuries are definitely going to be sore. If you play basketball you know that. Right now, it's getting better. Hopefully, I'll be able to make some shots [Sunday]."
With seven games remaining and the Bulls all but assured of the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Thibodeau must decide how he wants to approach the rest of the regular season. Rose and Rip Hamilton have both returned from long absences because of injuries and need time to play together before the playoffs begin.
"We have a lot of guys who have not played a lot of minutes when you look at total minutes, which is what I look at," Thibodeau said. "We need guys to get in rhythm now so that's what we're focused on. We want to continue to improve. We want to be playing our best basketball. We also need to have our health. We're prioritizing those two things."
Hamilton playing approximately 20 minutes per game in his first four games after returning from a shoulder injury. He logged just over 24 minutes against the Heat and can expect to see his minutes extended as the season winds down. He played 14 straight minutes in the second half against Miami, which was a sign that his conditioning is improving.
Hamilton doesn't have to play major minutes to be effective with Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and rookie Jimmy Butler also on the roster. He had 20 points in just over 20 minutes against the Knicks on Tuesday night, which is the kind of efficiency Thibodeau wants to see.
"When he's on the floor, he opens things up for people," Thibodeau said. "He's great moving without the ball. He gets transition baskets and with his catch-and-shoot game, he allows us to play off of that. Both he and Kyle get double teamed every time they're coming off a screen and they have the responsibility to make the right play. Rip has been around a long time. He's seen all the different defenses. He knows where the holes are. He's very unselfish."
Rose said his conditioning has been better than he expected it to be.
"The conditioning component is big," Thibodeau said, referring to Hamilton. "When you've missed the amount of time that he's missed and Derrick has missed you're concerned about that. You have to get that up to speed."