Interesting how Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon crossed paths Thursday.
While Gordon shot the ball well, as usual, for the injury-plagued Pistons, Rose is beginning to fill the Bulls' scoring void created when Gordon jumped to Detroit as a free agent last summer.
In the past six games, Rose has averaged 24.3 points while shooting 48.4 percent from the field.
Heading into the season, some observers believed Rose could step up and become a 20-point scorer the way Gordon was last year. But Rose also takes his role as a distributor seriously.
"I'm a point guard - I've got to get the ball out and make people better," he said. "So I can't go down and shoot every shot."
But he can use his impressive athletic skills to attack the basket and put heavy pressure on opposing defenses. Rose said he has been watching a lot of video lately with coach Vinny Del Negro, who spent 12 years in the NBA as a combo guard.
"He's always on me about just attacking, making sure I put pressure on the defense because it will open people up on the offensive end," Rose said.
Del Negro also is trying to emphasize drawing fouls. Rose still has never attempted 10 free throws in a regular-season game but has gotten to 8 in the last two contests.
"I'm just learning how to play guard, period," Rose said. "Making the right plays, who's open on the pick-and-rolls, if they play a certain way how to read it. It's a work in progress."
Rose is ending suggestions that he could become the victim of a sophomore slump. He wasn't his usual self early in the season after missing most of the preseason with an ankle injury.
"I know he was not healthy," Del Negro said. "You could see it in his face. You could see it in practice."
Bulls insiders beware: Since Tyrus Thomas returned from his broken left arm, the Bulls have dominated a couple of teams with small front lines.
Thomas and Joakim Noah combined for 34 points and 28 rebounds against Detroit on Thursday, after totaling 38 points, 27 rebounds and 6 blocks last week against New Orleans.
The Bulls' healthy lineup will be put to the test Saturday night when Dwight Howard and Orlando visit the United Center. When the victory at Detroit was over, Noah already was looking ahead.
"We've won three in a row and obviously Jan. 2 is going to be a good test against one of the best teams in the NBA," he said.
Rebound ledger: While Orlando center Dwight Howard leads the league at 13.3 rebounds per game, Joakim Noah raised his average to 12.5 by pulling down 21 boards against Detroit. Minnesota's Kevin Love, who has missed 18 games due to injury, is averaging 12.7.
Bull horns: The Bulls and their rough stretch in December hardly compares to the Pistons, who have lost nine straight and haven't held a second-half lead in their last six games. Detroit's next two contests are at Dallas and San Antonio. - Orlando was planning a lineup switch at small forward, moving Matt Barnes in for Mickael Pietrus. - The Bulls did not practice Friday.
Magic @ Bulls
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: Channel 9
Radio: WMVP 1000-AM
Update: The defending Eastern Conference champs have been rolling along this season but did carry a three-game road losing streak into Friday's game at Minnesota. Center Dwight Howard leads the league in rebounds (13.3) and blocks (2.5), though his scoring (17.4 ppg) is down this season. Vince Carter is Orlando's leading scorer at 19.1 points, while his .411 field-goal percentage matches a career-low. After being suspended by the league for the first 10 games of the season, Rashard Lewis is averaging 15.4 points. The Bulls went 1-3 against the Magic last season, winning once at home.
Next: Oklahoma City Thunder at the United Center, 7 p.m. Monday