Defense is an important aspect of basketball, and it is a concept head coach Tom Thibodeau preaches. His focus on defense and its importance has influenced the Bulls greatly. They have become a very dominant team defensively, but the case did not seem so on Tuesday.
In game two of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, a Derrick Rose-less Bulls team took on the Philadelphia 76ers. Even without Rose, they are very capable of defeating Philadelphia. Playing without him is not a foreign concept to them, so it should not be a difficult adjustment.
“We’ve played a lot of games this year without him,” said Kyle Korver. “Maybe that was getting us ready for this.”
Competing in all those games without Rose did not seem to pay off in game two. The first half was close, but once the second half began, the Bulls were nowhere to be found. Scoring was difficult, Chicago’s defense had vanished, and suddenly, the Sixers had found a way to create points for themselves.
Philadelphia scored a total of 109 points in their victory. Of those points, 52 of them were in the paint. They were also able to acquire 25 fast break points. This is an unusual accomplishment for a team opposing the Bulls, who led the league in points allowed per game with an average of 88.2. As much as the Bulls missed their captain, he was not an excuse for the poor defense executed. Rose is known for his explosive offense, not his defense. His biggest impact will come on the offensive end. The lack of defense can only be blamed on the active Bulls who stepped onto the hardwood in a uniform that day. They did not bring the defensive tenacity they usually have to the second half.
Rebounding was also an issue the Bulls had. Although they grabbed 32 total rebounds, they were outrebounded by the Sixers, who had 38 total rebounds. As the league’s top rebounding team, averaging 46.7 rebounds per game, this is a disappointment. Rose cannot be blamed for this either. As a point guard, grabbing boards is not his primary issue. The Bulls have great rebounders in the big men they have. Unfortunately, this was not necessarily to their benefit.
The ACL tear Rose suffered is definitely devastating to the Bulls and their fans, but as Thibodeau likes to say, “We have more than enough to win.”
The Bulls need to use what they have to win. They have great players who can provide what they need to move on in the playoffs. All they have to do is have confidence in themselves and play their hearts out.
If they continue to play like they did in game two, their goal of winning a championship will not be fulfilled. If they play like they did throughout the course of the regular season, winning despite doubt and injuries lurking over them, players stepping up and doing whatever it takes to win, they should not lose their championship contender status.