Bulls won't wither without Rose

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Doug Collins has consistently said that rebounding is more important than guard play against the Bulls. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

CHICAGO - Bulls guard Derrick Rose, the reigning MVP of the NBA, is going to be sidelined for the rest of the best-of-seven series against the 76ers.

But it changed virtually nothing for the 76ers on Sunday as they prepared for Tuesday's Game 2 at the United Center.

Rose's absence is not unfamiliar territory for the Bulls. He missed 27 games with toe, back, ankle and groin injuries, but the team won 66.7 percent of those games (18-9). Not having Rose has almost become normal for Chicago this season, and they will have to play that way through the remainder of the playoffs and possibly into next season.

Rose's gruesome injury, a torn ACL in his left knee, occurred with 1 minute, 20 seconds left in Chicago's 103-91 win on Saturday.

"They are not a one-man team," Andre Iguodala said. "They cover all areas and all aspects of basketball in the right way. They play the ultimate team-style of basketball. They are going to be tough whether it's regular season or playoffs, and I still think they are a really tough team."

There is little question about that. Despite Rose leading the Bulls with 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, other areas were a cause of greater concern for the Sixers, the primary being how Chicago's big men manhandled the Sixers' inside players.

"Everybody on our team and in our organization is sick to their stomach about what happened to [Rose]," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "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. Obviously C.J. Watson brings a little bit different game than he does. [John] Lucas [III] will be a part of that. He's instant offense off the bench. Those two guys will be more of a part of what they're doing.

"One of the things about Rose when he's on the floor he brings so much attention to your defense. You're constantly thinking about how you have two [defenders] 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, obviously it helps us. It hurts your rebounding when you're playing like that because obviously it's usually a big that's helping [on Rose]. It helps their rebounding. 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.

"With that being said, C.J. Watson beat us in here the last time that we played. We have the ultimate respect for him."

On March 17, Watson scored 20 points against the Sixers in an 89-80 Bulls win without Rose in the lineup. Like Rose, he was effective at getting into the lane and forcing the Sixers' big men to leave their assignments to try to stop his penetration. That helped Chicago to a 53-39 rebounding advantage. That is something the Sixers have to avoid again. They were beaten on the boards by 47-38 in Game 1.

"When Rose isn't in there, [Watson] is not drawing so much attention, we're not trapping as much," said Elton Brand. "But we'll get a more steady diet of Boozer and [Joakim] Noah and those guys shooting, and they're shooting around the rim and who knows what will happen then? [Without Rose], 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 to play defense and rebound and step up and be physical. But we lost to this team with Watson starting on this same court. It's not going to be easy."

No playoff series is or should be. Even with one of the league's premier players now sidelined, the Sixers truly believe the difficulty of their task hasn't diminished.

"The thing about the Bulls is, my concern is, 'Can we score the ball against them?' " said Collins. "We shot 36 percent. They can beat you with their defensive rebounding. That's how they won a lot of their games. We're going to have to be a lot more efficient offensively than we were. We had some fastbreaks that we didn't cash in on. We had some open shots that we missed. I thought coming into this series we were going to have to score 90 points to have a chance to win. We got 91 [Saturday], but our defense wasn't up to the standards that we wanted it to be and their second-chance points [20] really hurt us. We have to get 90 to 95 points to have a chance to win."

Last season in the playoffs against Miami, the Heat concentrated on shutting down sub Thaddeus Young, which they did effectively after Game 1. Now, Chicago has its defensive sights set on shutting down Sixers leading scorer Lou Williams.

"They're going to trap him when he gets the ball," said Collins. "They're going to say, 'He's your leading scorer and we're going to take him out of the game.' That's what every good team does when we play them. They are not going to let Lou Williams score. If he's in that situation then Lou's going to have to give that ball up in situations where maybe we can get some good shots up other places. Lou's capable of doing that. I still think that if we will rebound the ball we can get in transition a little bit and that will help him."

Collins has said continuously that the difference of this series will be whether his team can hold their own in the rebounding department against the Bulls. That really doesn't change now that Rose is out. But if they can narrow that advantage the Bulls had in Game 1, facing the Bulls without Rose makes the playing field much more level.

 


Contact Bob Cooney at cooneyb@phillynews.com.