Bulls 93, Rockets 99 - FINAL
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It was 86 games ago that the Bulls lost consecutive games in the regular season. That streak ended violently on Monday night as the Houston Rockets continued their playoff push by rowing the best team in basketball with a late surge to hold off Chicago.
After the game, the locker room was a morgue; no one spoke and when they did they did it quietly and concisely. There were no large soundbites to be had after the 99-93 loss, the second loss in as many days for the Bulls. Luol Deng, who led the Bulls with 24 points and 7 rebounds, didn’t use Derrick Rose missing as an excuse.
“They got guys out too.” he said.
Maybe it was Rose admitting that his injuries are worse then expected that deflated the Bulls Monday night, maybe it wasn’t but something definitely zapped the swagger and killer instinct out of Chicago. There was never really a momentum swing that the Bulls could hang onto and that showed when the Rockets capitalized late and pulled away.
Rip Hamilton made his return, but it has been overshadowed by the loss, a game the Bulls needed. Hamilton finished with 6 points and 2 assists.
Tom Thibodeau, who was named coach of the month for March before the game, didn’t use Rose or the numerous injuries as an excuse either. Rather, he repeated numerous time for those at his post game press conference what he felt was the issue.
“Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers,” he said. “We lost the last two games because of our mistakes.”
Thibodeau clearly wasn’t happy after the Bulls squandered a 61-48 lead in the third by allowing the Rockets to go on a 14-1 run. With under a minute left to go in the third, Patrick Patterson gave the Rockets the lead, something they didn’t surrender to the Bulls the remainder of the game.
The achilles heel for the Bulls this season besides the injuries has been their play in the third quarter of games. Last season it was their slow starts, but this year it seems that whenever they hit the third quarter, they run out of gas and allow teams back into games. This is something to monitor, as all potential playoff opponents will be looking to exploit this.
We also saw what the Bulls really look like without Rose after a duration of time. For two straight games against Western Conference playoff teams, the Bulls looked sluggish and erratic. The energy wasn’t there as consistently as it usually is. With news of the true extent of Rose’s injuries, the argument is becoming more and more drastically relevant: should Rose play now and risk not being healthy for the playoffs or rest and try to get as healthy as possible?
The sad fact is, Rose might not be completely healthy either way.
But we saw what an eighth seeded Western Conference playoff team could do to a Rose-less Bulls which seriously throws into doubt the theories out there that the Bulls can win in the postseason.
Chicago has other problems too as they are in serious danger of fumbling away their Eastern Conference lead to the Heat who play one more game then the Bulls this week. On top of that, Chicago gets Boston and New York as their two games, games they very well could lose even with Rose.
Next Thursday’s game against the Heat may very well be the Bulls biggest game of the season with the stakes as high as they can get.
But the Heat get the Thunder as one if their four games so the chances they tie this up by weeks end are very, very slim. But the Bulls are looking at their three game lead being dwindled down to just a half game come next week. It is these next two games, not this last one, that we will see if this Bulls team can float without Rose. How long can they get by without him without it hurting them?
We will find out.
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