Derrick Rose returned to action against the Mavericks playing a shade under 32 minutes of carefully controlled basketball while Dallas went the other way, resting Jason Terry and Jason Kidd for the night. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat decided to rest LeBron and Bosh for the night and Wade dislocated a finger in the first two minutes of the game. The result is they played the rest of the night without the big three and lost to the Wizards on a last second layup by Nene Hilario dropping the Bulls magic number for the East to one.
Magic number update / Probable matchup update
Miami Heat - 1 (Bulls should easily take the top seed with a home game against the Cavs remaining)
Oklahoma City Thunder / San Antonio Spurs - 2
#1 Chicago vs #8 New York - The Knicks are tied with the 76ers, but there's a widespread belief that they will tank to face Chicago in the first round. Even if they don't take they have @Atlanta and LAC on their schedule. The 76ers have @NJ, @Mil, and @Det. If they win @NJ they'll eliminate Milwaukee making the @Mil game meaningless for the Bucks. Unlikely NY, they 76ers have to win at least one game to clinch a playoff birth, so if NY wants to tank for the final spot they can.
Kind of a bummer for Chicago as New York is the only bottom three opponent that doesn't completely stink. The Magic are playing without Howard and the 76ers are playing far worse basketball.
#2 Miami vs Philly - Should pose little challenge to the Heat.
#3 Indiana vs Orlando - Indiana wins a free pass to the second round.
#4 Boston vs #5 Atlanta - Atlanta likely wins home court due to better record despite officially being the five seed.
Chicago vs Boston - I like the matchup for Chicago and think the Bulls will defeat Boston more easily than they'd defeat the Pacers. Boston has a ton of shot making but is terrible on the glass. The Bulls are dominant on the glass, and I just don't think a very poor rebounding team can beat the Bulls in four of seven games.
Miami vs Indiana - I think the Heat's star power overwhelms Indiana, but I'd much rather play Boston. Indiana has a ton of size and athleticism and will physically beat the hell out of Miami. They don't have enough shotmaking to beat the Heat IMO, but they'll bloody them up a bit.
Chicago vs Miami - I think this series is a push right now. We've talked about it so much now that there's little point to predicting what will happen right now as how healthy both teams are when they finally meet will make a big difference in the confidence level of the matchup.
At least he was out there
Derrick Rose was obviously considerably limited by his injuries still. He didn't look explosive at all and couldn't break down the Dallas defense. However, he looked to find a rhythm and did a nice job with it. He controlled his turnovers [one] and moved the ball around the court well [eight assists] while picking his spots to score [11 points on five of nine shooting].
Derrick will need to play a hell of a lot better than this for the Bulls to go anywhere, but it was nice to see him back in action at all. Chicago has three days off before their next game [in Indiana], so hopefully Rose will look more like himself by then.
Rip Hamilton looked almost dominant
So Rip Hamilton put up another great performance. He was easily the most explosive Bulls player on the court. A quick gauge into Derrick Rose's health is that Rip Hamilton is faster and more explosive on the court.
Hamilton did a nice job of initiating the attack off the dribble and made his way to the hoop at times, posted up, pulled up, and showed off the full repertoire. There are just two things that annoy me in regards to Hamilton:
1: I'm not convinced he can play like this against the Heat [or other good defensive teams]
2: The Bulls have decided to limit his minutes to play Korver even when Rip is drastically outplaying him.
Time will tell in the playoffs if Rip can perform at a high level in meaningful games against good competition, and we can only sit and hope the answer is yes.
The second question is a bit more puzzling. Perhaps Thibodeau wants to make sure everyone plays and doesn't want to remove one of Brewer/Korver from the rotation. However, the Bulls brought Hamilton in to be the SG not to share the responsibilities three ways. The Bulls could also generate quite a few more minutes by limiting Deng's role some which would keep him fresher.
From way downtown... BANG!
Chicago's three point shooting pulled them out of this game. Luol Deng was four of seven while Kyle Korver was three of five. Deng drilled two threes down the stretch of the game to effectively put the game out of reach. When Chicago is knocking down their threes at this clip, their offense becomes far more deadly.
The Bulls did a nice job of moving the ball around to compensate their lack of explosive dribble penetration.
Roddy Beaubois did his Derrick Rose
Roddy Beaubois was by far the most explosive player on the court and almost single handedly willed the Mavericks to victory before the Bulls closed the door with an offensive run at the end. Beaubois, who dislocated a finger early in the game, was completely unstoppable and got into the paint any time he wanted.
His play highlighted how much the Bulls are missing with Derrick Rose playing at his present level of ability. Hopefully, Rose will get back that athleticism soon.
Where were the offensive rebounds?
Joakim Noah had five and Taj Gibson had three, but that did it for the Bulls, no one else had another offensive board. Part of it is poor bounces, but you expect the guards to get a few boards just on long rebounds if nothing else. I'd expect the Bulls to typically perform much better on the offensive glass and turn this game into a route, but it didn't happen that way.
Focus on health and rhythm
At this point, the Bulls should be able to get the one remaining win they desperately need. Besides simply getting wins, the team will likely focus on getting everyone on the same page and developing a rhythm as well as keeping everyone healthy the rest of the way.
I have to say I loved the shortened season as a fan, the compressed schedule gave us a quality basketball game on virtually every night. However, I'll be happy to go back to the 82 game schedule that provides the players with a bit more rest every game.