Chicago Bulls: 3 Bold Predictions for the Rest of the First Round
Derrick Rose used a jump-stop late in the fourth quarter to halt his momentum on the court.
As Rose lay on the United Center floor grimacing in pain, it was even tougher watching the reactions of his teammates. The blank stares stuck out worse than LeBron James' hairline. It was a look that read"'It's over."
But is it really? Can't this team rally around each other for one last run, just like they did throughout the majority of the regular season?
Surely, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer won't let this team fall of into abyss. Tom Thibodeau's strict structure isn't built around one player. It's built on defense. It's not like Rose is exponentially better than anyone on defense.
Or do they crumble under the playoff pressure? All regular season the Bulls could play free and easy knowing that its Superman would eventually be back. No one knew when, but there was a better chance of Michael Jordan walking away from a blackjack table than Rose sitting out the postseason.
No one player stepped into the star role that Rose left behind during the season, yet they were still successful. Does that mean it will be a seamless transition, or will they be exposed like most teams in the playoffs without a superstar are?
Here are three predictions for the remaining games in the first round, and what the future may hold for the Chicago Bulls.
Derrick Rose Won't Be Missed...Yet
One reason why the Bulls maintained their success without Rose was due to the play of CJ Watson and John Lucas III.
Rose's presence wasn't greatly missed because he was replaced by players who play the same style, although not the same caliber.
Both Watson and Lucas III are shoot-first scoring point guards. In the regular season, Rose averaged almost eight assists a game, but when the playoffs come around, as he showed in Game 1 and last year, his shots tend to increase. With the increase in shots, his percentage goes down.
Watson and Lucas III don't have the green light, or as bright as one, as Rose so the quality of shots will likely be better. The quickness of Rose to get to the rim and cause the defense headaches will be missed, but his scoring ability won't be. Yet.
When looking at the 76ers and Bulls now, they look quite similar.
Both teams now lack the star power that drives teams deep into the playoffs. But now, they're quite comparable position-by-position. Watson is similar to Jrue Holiday. Richard Hamilton holds an advantage over Evan Turner and Lou Williams, but can he be as dangerous while being the focus of the defense?
Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala aren't scorers, but are capable. Joakim Noah isn't an offensive juggernaut, even playing against Lavoy Allen. Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer are close to a scratch.
With that being said, the 76ers are still as beatable as they were before. With Lucas III and Watson picking up the slack, it's not the 76ers to be worried about.
Rose might be missed in reference to the quality of basketball, but his stat sheet won't be missed.
Game 2 Will Be the Most Important Game of the Series
Before Rose's injury, Game 2 of the series held no more significance than any other game. It was assumed that even if the Bulls dropped one, they'd make up for it somewhere down the line.
Now, that isn't the case.
All of a sudden, the young 76ers have reason to add a kick to its step. Without Rose, Philadelphia has more reason than ever to believe in itself.
No one likes to see an injury, but don't think Turner and Co. aren't breathing a sigh of relief as far as their playoff chances go.
Do the 76ers come out hungrier than before and try to keep the Bulls down? Or do they come out with a sense of entitlement expecting the Bulls to roll over without the leader?
And what about the Bulls? Remember those faces at the end of game one? Are those faces hidden by a wry smile as they come out of the tunnel? Or do they truly believe this is a "Win it for Derrick" series and postseason?
One thing is for sure, whatever it is they say they feel will be put to the ultimate test early in Game 2. How they respond will determine the series.
Give Philadelphia one reason to believe it is the better team in the series, and the 76ers might just be young and naive enough to believe it.
The Bulls Win the Series in Five
What happens in that critical Game 2? The Bulls do what they've done all season.
If the 76ers believe things will get any easier, they have another thing coming. If there's a roster that will play that much harder and do that much more to advance, it's the Bulls.
Don't think for a second Noah or Boozer let's this team feel sorry for itself. Perhaps the Miami Heat game is used as motivation. Maybe it's not. Whatever motivation is needed, this team will find it.
Playing on the road is difficult, and without Rose's leadership, this team may struggle in Game 3. But once the Bulls get their feet under them, it will be full steam ahead.
The 76ers don't have the stars to overcome the hard-working Bulls. It takes talent to beat these Bulls, who never let up. The Bulls might run into that talent down the road, but for now, Chicago will have an early trip home. Not to play golf, but to watch tape on its next foe: Atlanta or Boston.