2012 NBA Playoffs: Keys for Chicago Bulls to Overcome Derrick Rose Injury
For the Sixers, this matchup is largely about survival and avoiding another first-round embarrassment. (Evan Turner, you wanted the Bulls, and now you've got them.)
Philadelphia's hot-starting season may have fizzled down the stretch, but it leaves this young team in a classic, "nothing to lose," underdog role.
Chicago has its sights set on that elusive NBA ring, and it might not have given the Sixers much thought. Now, things are a little tougher.
This first-round series is suddenly even more so as much about how the Bulls play as what the final score says.
The chances for an upset might be slim, but Chicago must use this opening tilt to build a title-ready foundation.
Here's how the Bulls can overcome losing Rose, beat Philadelphia and get their championship run off to a good start.
Recover from Losing Derrick Rose
Boy, how things can change.
The loss of Derrick Rose is devastating, but it's easy to forget the Chicago Bulls have been good with and without him.
How can they go from good to championship contenders without Rose? This most important question must be answered right now before the Bulls can even look forward.
With the Philadelphia 76ers overmatched at nearly every position, especially off the bench, Chicago has a chance to do this right.
It can continue its platoon-style attack, but someone else must step up in close games and lead for short bursts.
Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer are the guys who can pace things down the stretch, but the late spark and big shots are going to have to come from Richard Hamilton, C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver.
Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and rest of the roster must create easy baskets with their defense.
The Bulls can no longer be considered the best team in the East, but they're not out of the running either.
Take Care of Business (and the Ball)
The Chicago Bulls have the best defense in basketball.
The Philadelphia 76ers have lots of scoring options, but not one that's good enough individually.
The only way the Sixers will have a chance to put up big points is if the Bulls give them the ball.
Chicago's offense is going to have to feel its way around at first. In the worst-case scenario, it would be much better off settling for bad shots than forcing bad passes.
Philly put up big scores in the early season by generating a bunch of turnovers and running like crazy. Turning this into a track meet would be an advantage for the Sixers.
It's difficult to imagine them being able to do that for numerous games. Yet, it only takes one that gets completely out of hand to swing a little momentum to the underdogs.
The Sixers can get hot, and their fans can get loud. Suddenly, the Bulls could find themselves expending way too much fuel to put down the upstarts.
Chicago is going to need that energy for later, so it best not give the 76ers even a hint of daylight.
With all this talk about Derrick Rose's season-ending injury, it's so easy to forget how the Chicago Bulls got this far.
Luol Deng has been the team's most valuable player down the stretch. His offensive game is now complete, and he does all the little things at all times.
Carlos Boozer is still one of the best low-block and mid-range shooting forwards in the league, and the Bulls have plenty of secondary players who can score.
Outside of Rose, the Bulls aren't able to rely on any one player to carry them for an entire series.
But a different guy (or two or three) has stepped up every game this season.
The Bulls must continue to spread the ball evenly amongst their major contributors, keeping everybody hot.
They're going to need it.
Keep Boozer Confident
It seems like every major starter is the X-factor for this team.
Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton and Joakim Noah all have their storylines and pressures, but Carlos Boozer is often seen as the weak link.
No one doubts his talent, but he's disappeared from big moments throughout his career in both a Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls uniform. Mistakes and negative press seem to snowball for Boozer, especially when in the spotlight.
Of all the Bulls' supporting parts, it's Boozer who needs to have a big series.
If he can reach the second round with a head of steam, he'll keep that momentum for at least another round or two.
If Carlos Boozer struggles or has a quiet showing against the Philadelphia 76ers, then all the negativity will start early.
And we all know what goes down when that happens.
Let the Bench Be Heroes
Taj Gibson. Kyle Korver. Omer Asik. C.J. Watson. Ronnie Brewer.
Few teams boast a second unit that diverse, confident and experienced. Heck, even John Lucas III is an asset now.
This group's been together through multiple playoff runs, has been the deciding factor in numerous games throughout the regular season and has the supreme confidence of head coach Tom Thibodeau.
The Philadelphia 76ers might be overmatched in this series, but they will never roll over as long as Doug Collins is their head coach. There will be key moments of adversity for the Bulls.
If the starters are struggling, there may be the temptation to hammer against the brick wall until they "figure it out."
Thibodeau's second-unit strategy must stay the course, especially in the playoffs.
Let the reserves steady the ship when necessary. Allow them to play together, turn the tide and close the deal in at least one game this series.
By the next round, the "Bench Mob" will be frothing at the mouth for more.