The Chicago Bulls got all they could handle against the dreadful Washington Wizards Monday night, eventually losing, 87-84. C.J. Watson did his best to bring the Bulls back, hitting some big shots down the stretch, but saw his last-second three to send the game into overtime hit the front of the rim, sealing the win for the visiting Wizards.
Despite the loss, coach Tom Thibodeau's decision to sit D-Rose and Luol Deng was the right move. The Bulls have already clinched the Central Division and are almost a lock to nail down the No. 1 seed in the East. Putting them on the floor would have risked further injury in a meaningless game.
The Bulls have done most of their damage this season while the roster has been riddled by injuries. Rose has missed more than a third of the season to turf toe and ankle, back and groin ailments, and Deng has been playing with a wrist that will require surgery in the offseason.
Adding to this, Rose and Deng both came out of the team's overtime win in Detroit on Sunday nursing new injuries. The reigning MVP injured his right foot, and Deng is suffering from sore ribs after taking a shot late in the game.
Getting the team as close to healthy should be at the forefront of every decision Thibodeau makes. The Bulls' two most important players to making a title run, Rose and Deng, are the two that most needed to sit out the game against the Wizards.
At this point in the regular season, the outcome of the games doesn't mean anything as far as determining a team's worth. Even with playoff teams on the schedule, there aren't any statement or barometer games to be played. Winning a regular-season game in mid-April isn't going to determine if the Bulls will win or lose the championship.
Playoff basketball is a different beast than regular-season basketball. The level of intensity goes up, and the physicality is unlike anything the players experience during the regular season. Anyone can win one game, but beating a team four out of seven is something else altogether.
There was no reason for Derrick or Luol to play against the Wizards. In fact, there isn't a reason for either of them to play Wednesday in Charlotte. Let them lick their wounds one more game and come back as close to healthy as they can be this late in the season. All they should need are the final four games before the playoffs begin to get back into rhythm.
The Bulls know how to play together as a team and are deep and talented enough to win an opening-round-playoff series while their stars get their legs back. D-Rose proved against Detroit that he only needs a couple of games to get back to his clutch-shot, ankle-breaking ways. Deng has been a model of consistency the last two seasons, playing a ton of minutes while playing solid defense and contributing on offense.
I applaud Thibodeau for looking ahead and realizing that the playoffs are what are important, not winning a meaningless game against a bad NBA team. His decision to sit Rose and Deng may have upset the fans who bought a ticket to the game, but it was necessary to ensure the team has a chance to sell tickets into June.