Rose is done for the playoffs- are the Bulls?

Rose is done for the playoffs- are the Bulls?
Photo by Rose Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

No, they aren't.

Can they still win an NBA championship this spring? Almost certainly not.

Can they still win this series against the Sixers? I fully expect them to.

Can they still beat either Atlanta or (most likely) Boston in the next round? Yes, they can.

Can they still beat the Heat and get to the NBA Finals? Barring an event that rivals Moses' parting of the Red Sea, no freaking way.

Let's start with the immediate task at hand, beating the Sixers three more times. The Bulls should be able to do that without ever having to go to Philly for a Game 6. The reason is simple, the Sixers just aren't that good.

They played great ball at the beginning of the season, getting off to a 20-9 start. But over the last 37 games- almost 1/2 a normal NBA season- they went 15-22.  Not very good.

And Evan Turner handed the Bulls all the bulletin board material they'll need to get through this round. I still expect the Bulls to close out Philly in 5 games.

The next round will bring the winner of the Hawks/Celtics series to Chicago. The Hawks are still woefully inadequate inside without All-Star center Al Horford, which means the Bulls would dominate the series on the boards. Zaza Pachulia, Horford's backup, is also out. That leaves Jason Collins and Erick Dampier as the only centers on Atlanta's roster.

Dampier doesn't even play, as the Hawks have chosen to go with rookie Ivan Johnson- a 6'8", 230 pound, 28-year-old power forward- as their backup center.

The Celtics are a veteran team full of players with rings- but they are also old, and very weak up front. Kevin Garnett- who is well past his prime as a power forward- is their starting center. This is another series that the Bulls would absolutely dominate on the boards, and unless they just shoot miserably from behind the arc, they should win this series.

Miami- forget about it. Even with their weaknesses at point guard and center, they just simply have too much talent for the Bulls to overcome in a seven game series.

The only hope the Bulls have in this series is that the Heat's entire defensive strategy against the Bulls is to double-team Rose as soon as he crosses half-court, forcing the rest of the team to beat them. The Bulls beat the Heat twice this season, once without Rose and once with Rose having his worst shooting night as a pro (1/13).

There are a few reasons that the Bulls will still go to the conference finals:

1- Richard Hamilton. Yes, the old man can still play, as he showed in today's game. Playoff experience is absolutely huge, and Rip has more than almost anyone in the league. If he's finally healthy- and he sure looked like it in Game 1- his presence will be huge.

2- CJ Watson and John Lucas III. What's horrible news for Bulls fans is a blessing to these two. They have just been handed the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to show the entire league that they have game. Each of them have played their way from basketball obscurity back to the NBA, and now they will have a chance to prove their value to the rest of the league.

Let's be honest, CJ and JL3 can each make millions and millions of dollars based on how they perform in these playoffs. Money is often the best incentive to get a guy playing his best basketball.

The Bulls only need one of these guys to play well each night, as Thibs has shown that he has no problem going with the hot hand. Taking it to the extreme, the Bulls only need a total of four outstanding games between CJ and JL3 to make it competitive against the Heat.

3- Defense and rebounding. The Bulls were #1 in the NBA this season in each category, and they were also 3rd in blocked shots. Defense is what wins in the playoffs, and the Bulls will most certainly continue to give it their all on that end of the floor.

4- They know they can win without Rose. They went 18-9 without Derrick this season, and their .667 winning percentage without him would be good for the 4th-best record in the NBA, behind only San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Miami.

5- Lack of pressure. The entire world now expects nothing out of the Bulls, and if they make it to the East finals there will be an insane amount of pressure on the Heat to win the series. They don't call King James "LeChoke" because of his history of excelling when the pressure is at it's greatest.

One thing is certain, we are all about to find out if basketball really is a "team" game.

 

Comments

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  • Thanks for the positive view point. It's encouraging watching Hamilton's progress actually. I thought he was moving well in game one. And Noah is playing better than at this time last year. In fact, most of the Bulls are - with the notable exception of Rose due to all the injuries. It would be nice if fate would allow Lucas and Watson to have alternating career nights, however unlikely that may be. You never know, sometimes these things can make a team pull together and do something special.

  • In reply to Dave:

    Thanks Dave, but really I wasn't necessarily trying to be positive, just honest.

    I think Rip and Boozer are the keys- Rip needs to avoid trying to do too much to replace Rose's scoring. As long as he stays in the flow of the offense, like he did yesterday, IMHO he can give us 18-20 a night.

    Boozer really needs to assert himself on offense as well. They brought him in (mostly) for his scoring ability, and it's imperative that he gets back to being the (playoff) 20+ points, 12+ rebounds, 50%+ FG shooter he was in Utah. He's completely healthy now, it's time to earn that money the Bulls are paying him.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Don, Chicago really does have a punchers chance in regards to all teams this year. When DRose played Saturday he was 9-23. Spread those shots across the team and maybe there is a bigger cushion than what was the cause for Rose to re-enter the last game for the last time.

    This team has to rely on every intangible aspect it has boasted on: chemistry unselfish whistle to whistle teamplayers .In that scope they take the court in the face of more talented teams with much in their back pockets .

  • In reply to mummuhwalde:

    Thanks for the comment, mummuhwalde. I agree 100% that the Bulls can beat any team in the East without Rose- with the probable exception of Miami.

    That being said, the rest of the roster has pride, and I'm sure they'll be quite motivated by everyone saying they have no chance to beat the Heat- when they've already done it once this season without Rose and once with Rose playing like garbage.

  • Don ... Philly is very beatable. What worries me is they're unlikely to have as bad a shooting night as they had Saturday. That said, the Bulls defense is stout enough that, unless they (the Bulls) have a horrid shooting night of their own, they have enough to win, esp. over a 7-game series.

    Will be interesting to see if ATL comes out with the intensity and accuracy they showed in G1. BOS looked slow and sluggish for much of the game. Very interesting that Drew has Hinrich starting. He can still defend. I thought Horford was likely to come back for round 2. Has that been ruled out?

    MIA-NY? Shumpert was their best on-ball defender; he's gone. Davis is done. Miami in 4, 5 tops.

    What the Bulls can't do is allow Miller and Battier to make 6 3's. V

  • While it's certainly possible for the Bulls to have a bad shooting night or two vs Philly, it actually helps our 3-pt shooting to have CJ and JL3 (each .393 from behind the arc this season) on the floor instead of Derrick (.312)

    The Bulls still have some pretty decent offensive players- Rip averages 20 ppg over his playoff career, Boozer 18 and Deng 17. As long as Korver and either CJ or JL3 are hitting 3's, with Rip instead of Bogans and a healthy Boozer, IMHO the offense will be much better than people expect.

    Horford might be back for the next round, but after sitting out so long I don't expect him to be very effective.

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