After a lot of trash talking surrounding his preferred choice for playoff opponents, Turner got his wish, and the Bulls and Sixers tipped off the 2012 NBA playoffs in the United Center.
This was a game that Chicago controlled the entire way with great ball movement (28 team assists), solid shooting (51.3 percent) and fantastic rebounding (47-38 advantage).
Philadelphia tried to make several pushes to take control, but they could not score consistently enough to ever really challenge the Bulls.
With nearly four phenomenally played quarters in the books, the Bulls seemed poised to use Game 1 as a harbinger of things to come in this series.
That all changed in an instant late in the fourth quarter.
Despite having a double-digit lead, Derrick Rose was still on the floor for Chicago with under two minutes to play.
While making a strong move to the rim, Rose’s left knee buckled, and he went down in obvious pain with 70 seconds left in regulation.
The extent of Rose’s injury is not known; however, in that instant, the Bulls playoff fate went from clear to hazy.
If Rose is out for an extended period of time again, would it be possible for the Bulls to make it out of the first round?
Even without Rose, the Bulls can and will beat Philadelphia, but the bigger issue revolves around how many games will it take to close the Sixers out.
The Sixers were not dominated by a Rose-led Bulls team as his 23 points came off of 9-of-23 shooting; instead, Philadelphia was beaten by a team that shared the ball and got contributions from multiple players.
If the scoring from players like Richard Hamilton and Kyle Korver continue, the Bulls will still make short work of Philadelphia. However, if Chicago finds themselves in the offensive lulls they were known for without Rose, this series could get stretched out to six or seven games.
Should the series get pushed to the brink, Chicago will still prevail because Philadelphia’s double-whammy of scoring droughts and lack of front-court size and depth still puts them on the losing side of this matchup.
For Chicago, though, ending this series quickly has become an even bigger priority.
Rose missing time to recover from this setback is something Chicago may not be able to avoid; however, the Bulls must also make quick work of Philly to insure that they are not worn down for what is sure to be a grueling second-round series against either the Boston Celtics or Atlanta Hawks.
Whether or not it was prudent to have Rose in that late is moot right now, and the Bulls have three more games to win and can’t dwell on freak happenstance.
All Chicago can do is keep it together until Rose returns, then maintain the effort as far as it will take them.
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