The lights came on and the stage was set as Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls mounted the floor in preparation for their first round Game 1 match-up with a very deep and defensive-minded Sixers squad. The Bulls came into the event with high expectations and championship hopes. Meanwhile, the Sixers are still in relief mode as they held onto their No. 8 seed as the season closed with the Milwaukee Bucks just nipping at their heels.
This year’s compressed schedule had most definitely taken a large toll on the Bulls’ superstar guard, D-Rose. Rose missed 27 games this season due to a slew of injuries that included his back and groin.
But Derrick was healthy by Saturday afternoon and the Bulls felt big things were coming.
When the game started, the Bulls quickly jumped out to a commanding lead, and the game felt as though it was leaning their way the whole time. As the game carried on, Chicago continued to impress, beating out Philly in every team statistical available with the exception of steals and turnovers. Although the Sixers didn’t look bad, they just didn’t play up to the Bulls’ lofty level.
With 1:10 left in the game, Chicago winning, and players tired, Bulls head honcho Tom Thibodeau kept their star, Derrick Rose, in the game – some are saying because he was one rebound and one assist away from a triple-double. On one of the game’s final possessions, Rose knifed through Philadelphia’s defense and went for a jump-stop to shoot a lay-up or kick-out pass for Carlos Boozer (remember, the Bulls were leading by 12 points at this point).
On Rose’s takeoff/landing, his left knee buckled in mid-air. Rose was left lying on the floor for the next couple seconds as Philly took the ball to the other side of the floor. With gasps coming from all over the United Center, people could see the grimacing look on Rose’s face. They knew it wasn’t good. A TV crew was able to pick up Rose saying, “I heard something pop” to a member of the team medical staff.
Rose was carried off the floor. Another bad sign. But the Bulls were able to close the game with a 103-91 win over Philadelphia to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Within a few hours, Rose was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his left knee. Given that information, Derrick cannot play at all for the rest of the playoffs, will require surgery and will most likely not be ready for the Olympics right around the corner. Even bigger than that, Rose might not even be ready to suit up for the Bulls next season until late November.
So what does his absence mean for the series going further?
Well… a lot.
Even Magic Johnson says they have no chance at a championship. (Although I strongly agree.)
This is obviously good news for Philadelphia as they will be able to use their point guard, Jrue Holiday, to a big advantage. Holiday is a 6’4″, 180 pound, long and athletic guard who is a good defender. His length will be able to suffocate backups John Lucas and C.J. Watson.
Statistically, Chicago takes big step back without Rose. The reigning MVP averaged 21.8 points per game this season despite being nagged by injuries. Yes, Watson and Lucas played well when Rose was out during the regular season. But, the playoffs are a whole other animal.
Neither of them are ready for the challenges that guards face in the playoffs. The Bulls went 18-9 without Derrick in the line-up. That, to me, is hardly a championship caliber record.
You know how they say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? Well, this is the perfect example. Rose’s situation is a tragedy for the Bulls. For the Sixers? Not so much – it’s an unquestionably good turn of fortune.
Expect a big game out of Holiday as he will be guarded by smaller players like Lucas and Watson. Rose’s strength obviously bothered Holiday in Game 1. Holiday shot 7-18 overall and 1-4 from three, so most of his shots are occurring closer to the basket. With smaller defenders, it will be easier for him to get to the rim and create for himself and others. When Holiday is on his game, he’s got All-Star potential and he’ll need to play like it for the Sixers.
Another factor is Louis Williams, Philadelphia’s 6’2” leading scorer. He shot below 20 percent from the field and will take advantage – much like Holiday – of the smaller defenders and get his game going from the inside-out.
All-Star wing Andre Iguodala wasn’t himself either, shooting 3 for 11 from the field. He shot over 45% during the regular season and play as a de-facto point guard at times and is the Sixers’ primary ball handler in crunch-time situations. So don’t be surprised to see Watson or Lucas have to guard Iggy for possession a or two, a prospect which should worry the Bulls.
I think that the Elton Brand-Carlos Boozer match-up is fairly even. Both played exceptionally well in Game 1. Joakim Noah had a big performance in Game 1, too. Philadelphia’s center tandem, Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes, combined for only 9 points and 10 rebounds. Noah, obviously, has a sizable advantage there.
In Game 2 the Bulls will need bigger contributions from everyone. For Philly, it’s a mirror image, they need bigger numbers and production from every position to get over the hump.
Look for a good game out of these two teams in Game 2.
Predictions in short:
Game 2 Score: 91-87, Philadelphia.
Series prediction: Chicago in 7
- Although they lose Rose, I think that the Bulls can win the series if they can get it to seven games. If they falter over the next couple games, though, I feel they will struggle to advance in six games or less.