NBA Playoffs 2012: 5 Reasons Chicago Bulls Are in Trouble
On paper, Chicago has configured the right amount of elite talent and disciplined role players to formulate a championship-caliber team.
They have also attracted an injury bug that's more infectious than smiling on a WaveRunner.
The NBA championship isn't a race, it's a marathon.
If Chicago wishes to finish what it started the previous postseason, however, it will begin by clearing five hurdles.
5. Creating Shots
Let's begin with the obvious: Derrick Rose can create his own shot.
If there was a video detailing how to break down defenses using dribble penetration, Rose would be hosting his own highlights.
But what happens when the defending MVP is sidelined?
The offensive execution, at times, is equivalent to a fish out of water.
Watson, who has started half of his 40 games played, has complained about his lack of playing time in the past—this may have planted the seeds of his reputation for forcing shots. According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Watson struggled while shooting 12-for-44 paired with 15 turnovers in the Bulls' five-game stretch heading into Boston.
John Lucas III emits enough energy to power United Center himself. An injured Derrick Rose even witnessed the 29-year-old lead Chicago to a win over its Eastern rival Miami on March 14. However, even the vast majority of Bulls fans wouldn't expect Lucas to replicate his 9-for-12 shooting performance against the Heat—especially in a playoff atmosphere.
However, the duo excels in cleaning up the boards after Rose's lightning-quick penetration forces the defense to collapse.
March, a month in which Derrick Rose was regularly spectating, was the first instance of Chicago not averaging double-digit offensive rebounds this season.
4. Miami Heat
Chicago natives will roll their eyes at this, but let's be realistic.
Derrick Rose and Co. aren't playing for an Eastern Conference Finals berth—they're playing for a championship.
Pundits will ask analysts for their pick.
Some will choose Chicago due to Tom Thibodeau, Derrick Rose (assuming he's healthy) or its defensive prowess.
However, in similar fashion to last season, most analysts will have their name appear in an onscreen graphic accompanying the word "Miami".
Fans from both teams will swarm message boards as if they were foreshadowing an upcoming plague.
The Chicago faithful will type in four digits representing their record. One witty South Beach resident will reply with a "This day in history" anecdote denoting last season's series.
More bickering will emanate than two rival Irish families in a tavern on St. Patrick's Day.
If Chicago hopes to win the debate, Thibodeau will have to concoct a game-plan that frees Rose from the menacing defense of LeBron.
3. Free-Throw Shooting
Free throws, on the other hand, are the sporting equivalent of Ben Stein talking about the history of cardboard.
But they can make or break a playoff run.
Chicago shoots 73 percent from the free-throw stripe, ranking 27th amongst 30 teams.
The Bulls' inexcusable meltdown against New York on April 8 stemmed from the inability to convert from the free-throw line.
The bonus can be a team's best friend or worst enemy, depending upon how it's utilized.
Derrick Rose already witnessed one championship slowly slip through his grasp at Memphis in 2008 due to not cashing in at the charity stripe.
This Chicago team contains the same liability that would allow history the opportunity to repeat itself.
2. Recent Performances at Home
Winning at home in essential during a grueling NBA postseason.
In its last 10 games at the United Center, Chicago is 7-3.
If Chicago wins its first championship since Michael Jordan left town, photographer's flashes will illuminate Derrick Rose as he hoists the Finals MVP trophy.
Rose is the only player on the Bulls roster that demoralizes defenses, leaving them in shambles as head coaches shake their head in disbelief while he struts to the free-throw line.
He is also ailing from injuries. A lot.
Derrick Rose has been absent from 22 games this season—more than a third.
Chicago's ankle-breaking All-Star point guard has missed action due to injuries ranging from back spasms to tweaked ankles.
The Bulls, however, are deep enough to potentially reach the Eastern Conference Finals with a banged up MVP.
But if Chicago hopes to beat the Heat, it will rely on a wilting Rose that has a history of thorns in its side.