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Bulls begin their brave new world without Derrick Rose
by Sam Smith
Posted on May 1
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Doug Collins had several messages for his team as the Philadelphia 76ers prepare for Game 2 of the first round playoff series with the Bulls Tuesday trailing 1-0.
Yes, the big story is the absence of Derrick Rose after his awful anterior cruciate ligament injury that put him out of the playoffs and well into next season. So Collins showed his team a little chart.
It had the Bulls at 18-9 without Rose, a winning percentage of .667.
The 76ers finished the season with a percentage of .530.
So when Collins was asked after 76ers practice Monday if he was concerned about the “mindset of his team now that Rose is out” and they might be overconfident, Collins became speechless.
Finally, he shook his head and said, “You’re kidding, right?
“Are we favored to win the series now?” He asked. “They beat us 89-80 here last time we played. (C.J.) Watson had 20.
“Our focus will be the same with Derrick Rose (and) without him,” Collins said. “There’s not a guy on our roster who doesn’t feel for that guy. Not only is this costing him the playoffs, but it is costing him the Olympics. He may never get another chance. I played in the Olympics and I know how special that is. We’re going to play the same way.”
Though Collins hopes different in a few different ways.
Collins is one of the best in the NBA at making in game and between games adjustments. He’s been tinkering with different lineups after lifting Jodie Meeks early in Game 1, and at some 76ers weaknesses the Bulls exposed. And perhaps some changes the Bulls will make with Watson starting that the 76ers can take advantage of.
There have been those suggesting the Bulls will be a better all around team without Rose, which 76ers players laugh at.
“Everybody on our team and in our organization is sick to their stomach about what happened,” said Collins, “He’s everything that’s right about the NBA. I know he’s heartbroken about not being a part of this. One of the things I shared with our guys is that he missed 27 games this year. They have played without him. It’s not going to be that he didn’t miss any games this year and now what are they going to do. They won some big games without him (Boston, Miami, Atlanta, Orlando).”
Elton Brand said players always say they like to play against the best.
“But if you can get some of the best players out, I think you would want to do that,” said Brand.
Brand noted the 76ers priorities for Game 1 and now for Game 2 remain rebounding, and he says the 76ers feel they at least have a better chance on the boards with Rose out.
The Bulls’ 20 second chance points in Game 1 was circled by the 76ers as one of the biggest reasons for their loss.
Brand said one of the principal problems playing the Bulls is Rose’s explosive moves into the paint. Even when he doesn’t shoot, the defense has to trap, thus sending a big man out. The result is leaving those open lanes for Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Omer Asik and Carlos Boozer to get to the basket for demoralizing second shots.
“We’re not trapping as far away from (the basket without Rose),” Brand said. “Those are like offensive plays for them. We’re not running around the court trapping so we can be closer to the rim, but we’ll have to wait and see. The bigs we have (will) have to play defense and rebound and step up and be physical.”
That’s one area of interest for the 76ers, though they probably will trap Watson off the pick and roll as well because he isn’t Rose. Yes, he twice led the Bulls in scoring against the 76ers this season. But he is a relatively high turnover player and not as much of a facilitator. The Bulls average six fewer assists per game when Rose doesn’t play, and for a variety of reasons.
One is Watson and John Lucas are more jump shooters and don’t move the ball as well. Plus, Rose does get trapped more off the pick and roll. Thus Rose will drop the ball off to Noah, who’ll make a play four against three with his passing ability.
The 76ers might trap Watson and Lucas some to upset them. But it likely won’t be as routine as with Rose, enabling the 76ers to stay in a solid shell of a defense in the lane more often and thus rebound. The 76ers also figure to play rebounding guard Evan Turner more to help on the boards.
“One of the things about Rose when he’s on the floor he brings so much attention to your defense,” said Collins. “You’re constantly thinking about how you have two on the ball with him all the time. So now you get yourself caught in situations where you’re playing four on three. The more we can limit the opportunities for them to have us in a mismatch helps us. It hurts your rebounding when you’re playing like that because obviously it’s usually a big that’s helping (on Rose). We’re hoping that we’re going to rebound the ball better and we’re not going to get strung out defensively. That’s what he brings to their team. That being said, C.J. Watson beat us in here the last time that we played. We have the ultimate respect for him.
“We can’t give them 103 points and let them shoot 50 plus percent,” said Collins. “We’ve got to get (down) to 45 percent and get their (scoring) number in the low 90’s. That’s more who we are. They’re 23-0 when they score 100 points and 39-3 when they win the first quarter. They’re quick starting team and when they score their defense is really good.”
So that quick start is another issue to watch that Collins discussed with his team.
“It’s going to be a lot of emotion (to start the game),” Brand noted. “The city has been following this (Rose injury). I’ve got a lot of friends here and they’ve been telling me. The team is going to want to show, ‘Hey, we love Derrick. We have his back. We’re playing for him. We can still win a championship.’ There will be a lot of emotion in the building.”
Rose was at Bulls practice Monday at the Berto Center to chat with teammates and could be at the game Tuesday. How emotional would that be?
“A lot of coaches have called,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Doug immediately after the game. People have a lot of respect for Derrick. Not only for his greatness as a player, but how he carries himself, how he represents the league and game. A lot of people are reaching out and want me to deliver a message to him. The injury is unfortunate. It’s part of the game. He’s a fierce competitor. He’ll approach his rehab the same way he approaches the game. I’m extremely confident he’ll come back better than ever. We want him to be around. As much time as he needs is fine. I don’t think he’ll be able to travel with us. But he’ll be around. And he wants to be around. He’s anxious to get around his teammates. That’s the way Derrick is. He doesn’t look back. He looks ahead. That’s a great way to be.”
But after the emotion there will be basketball, and emotion doesn’t make the ball go in.
The Bulls averaged 98.1 points per game this season and shot 46.1 percent. Without Rose, they averaged 93.9 points and shot 43.8 percent. Without Rose, Luol Deng was the high scorer at 16.7 per game, though six players including Lucas averaged in double figures.
So the Bulls will rely again, as they did in Game 1, on Richard Hamilton, again hoping for a quick start. So that will be one of the 76ers top defensive priorities. The Bulls had great success with Hamilton and Kyle Korver running their floppy plays along the baseline and with a down screen. The 76ers figure to trap that more with a big man as opposed to having to trap out so high. Of course, many teams do that and both Hamilton and Korver are good passers. Thibodeau, likewise, is excellent in anticipating adjustments and the challenge will be whether the 76ers can provide enough big man help while the Bulls will have to make that extra pass to the weak side for an easier shot and not have Hamilton and Korver force shots.
And while Watson will be looked at carefully for how he runs the team, he’ll also be on guard against Jrue Holiday, who has been an elusive player for the Bulls and 30-point scorer one game. Watson and Lucas will be pressured more as well to test them even as they’ve been in this situation before. Because the 76ers are best when they can force turnovers and score easily.
Playing without Rose, and extending that over an entire season, the Bulls at 18-9 would have had the second best record in the Eastern Conference. Their 7.5 per game differential would have been No. 1 in the NBA. The 86.4 points per game they gave up would have been No. 1. Their rebounding differential of 7.7 per game would have been No. 1. Their 56 rebounds per game would have been No. 1 by 10 per game. Their 22.6 assists per game would have been fifth.
So this Bulls team is not just a sky without a star. It’s a whole new world starting Tuesday.