It took only 10 games for Derrick Rose to merit his first statistical link to Michael Jordan.
With, ahem, 23 points, Rose became the first Bulls rookie since Jordan in 1984 to score in double digits in all of his first 10 games, leading the Bulls to a 104-91 victory over the Pacers on Saturday night at the United Center.
The Bulls concluded their five-game homestand with a 3-2 mark and improved to 5-5, just the third time since Jordan & Co. left town they will embark on their annual extended November trip with a record of .500 or above.
And any Bulls fan knows what happens out west: The team is just 6-52 since 1998 on the trip that begins Tuesday night in Los Angeles against the Lakers.
"I hear with this road trip coming up, this was a must win," Rose said.
Rose had help.
Andres Nocioni snapped out of a shooting slump to score 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Ben Gordon added 19 points. Also, in just his second game after missing the first eight as he recovered from a dislocated right shoulder, Larry Hughes played solid fourth-quarter defense on the Pacers' leading scorer, Danny Granger. Hughes had three steals and scored 12 points off the bench.
Granger, averaging 24.3 entering, finished with 15 and missed 11 of 15 shots.
"The more I'm out there, the more I get into a rhythm at both ends," said Hughes, who played the entire fourth quarter.
The Bulls led 87-84 before a 15-3 run in which Hughes scored six, Nocioni five and Rose four.
In the third quarter, Rose scored 12 points, including eight straight that featured two of his three three-pointers.
"Derrick kind of took over the game," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "He has a calmness about him, the right demeanor. He just keeps coming at you."
Rose added three of the Bulls' 15 steals and eight assists in his 40 minutes, his fifth straight at or above that number. Asked if he envisioned playing this much, Rose laughed.
"Noooo," he said. "I never would imagine this. But things happen. Kirk [Hinrich] is out. People were injured. I just have to suck it up."
For the second straight game, the Bulls protected the ball, finishing with just 11 turnovers. They also sank 25 of 27 free throws.
But once again, the story was about Rose, who is making the game look easy.
"I never thought it'd be anything like this," he said. "I thought it would be kind of hard because we're not used to each other yet. But we have a bunch of good guys. I'm not on a team with knuckleheads or nothing like that. So it makes my job easier because they listen to me and I listen to them."
Del Negro just smiled.
"There's nothing he's doing I didn't expect," he said.
Bulls 104, Pacers 91
Rose's 23 points lift Bulls over Pacers
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