On his first shot Saturday night, Derrick Rose watched his attempt get spiked to the floor, after which he received a forearm in the chest for emphasis. On his second shot, the Bulls guard hoisted a 3-pointer and watched it thud off the side of the backboard.
The return after The Return, in these early moments Saturday, seemed a letdown.
What came after: A full-throttle lack of let-up.
It was another night of top-shelf offensive production in a 110-94 victory over the Pacers, which would not be an entirely remarkable November accomplishment if the Pacers weren’t the last unbeaten team in the NBA and hadn’t played pillow-to-the-face defense to date.
Instead, the Bulls (5-3) won a fourth straight by shooting 50.6 percent overall and leading by as many as 33 en route to a season-high for scoring. They shot 11 of 19 from 3-point range while also eviscerating the Pacers for 46 points in the paint.
They put seven players in double figures, led by 23 points from Luol Deng and, of more than minor note, 20 from Rose, back from a hamstring-related one-game absence to hit six 3-pointers for his first 20-point night of the season. About the only sore point was Carlos Boozer getting ejected with the Pacers’ Chris Copeland for some last-minute shoving.
The Pacers (9-1) sought to be the 14th team in NBA history to start a season 10-0. Instead, the last unbeaten team in the league looked beaten down from the start. Runs of 10-0 and 12-2 in the first quarter established the Bulls’ control, with the Pacers forcing tough shots and the Bulls making them anyway.
Little changed in the second quarter, when long-range efficiency began to create even more room. Three straight 3-pointers — one from Kirk Hinrich, then two from Rose —bumped the lead beyond 20 points. It settled at an eye-popping 60-35 advantage at the break.
The Bulls shot 54.8 percent in the first half against a team allowing just 38.6 percent efficiency, tops in the NBA entering Saturday. Rose and Deng each led the Bulls with 14 first-half points and Hinrich contributed 11 off the bench.
There was no refuge from the deluge in the third quarter, either: Consecutive 3-pointers from Rose and Deng helped boost the lead beyond 30, and then Jimmy Butler drained a bomb from the corner while being knocked to the floor to make it scalding 9 of 11 efficiency from long range at that point.
The crowd roared, Butler screamed, then hit a free throw to make it a 33-point game. It was still the third quarter, and there wasn’t even any shouting left to be done.
Meanwhile, Rose was pronounced “good to go” before the game by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who along with the training staff liked whatever they saw during a closed walk-through at the United Center.
His minutes were to be determined in the flow of the game — Rose spent a little more than nine minutes on the bench across the first and second quarters, for example, and finished with 31 — but managed well.
“Each day he improved,” Thibodeau said before the game. “The thing is, we wanted to make sure that he could pass the test (and) he had to feel like he’s good enough to play.”