The collective intake of breath that went around the arena when Derrick Rose collapsed clutching his knee was not without good reason. A knee injury is not an easy one to overcome for all players, let alone one who dodges and weaves through traffic in the manner that Rose does. Few players need stability in their legs like Rose does. There are also fears that his explosive leap would be adversely affected by the ACL tear. Whilst this has not been proven wrong, Rose appears to be taking all the right steps towards recovery as the start of the season draws near.
“My rehab is good, my leg is getting a lot stronger and I’m able to run a little bit more. My body is feeling good. I’m in a peaceful place right now.”
Whilst the injury is a huge obstacle for Rose himself to overcome, if he’s not ready to go at the start of the season, the Bulls face a big challenge in trying to remain in the race for upon Rose’s return. Without Rose the Bulls have essentially no offense whatsoever, as no other player has the ability to create plays like he can. There will be a dangerous limbo period for the Bulls if Rose is not able to return straight away.
It really was not going to be anyone else in the end. Luol Deng led from the front in a big victory for the Bulls as they forced another game as the series moved to 3-2. Deng had 24 points and was aptly backed up by a near triple double from power forward Carlos Boozer who had 19 points, 13 rebounds and handed out 6 assists.
“They were the No. 1 defensive and rebounding team in the regular season for a reason. We are getting good shots. We just didn’t hit our open shots.”
— Philadelphia forward Elton Brand talking about the Bulls.
Jrue Holiday added 16 points as he continued to emerge as a top flight point guard. Both Andre Iguodala and Spencer Hawes added 10 points each.
After yesterdays triumph, the Philadelphia 76ers only need one more win to become this years Memphis Grizzlies. For something that has not happened very often in history, we are looking at having the same thing occur two years in a row. Of course, injuries have played a major part in this series, with the absence of Derrick Rose the number one reason that many fall back to. But it’s hardly like the Sixers have been handed the series.
Luol Deng has had zero impact on this series so far and looks a shadow of the All Star that he is. Andre Iguodala has played some great defence on him, blocking him out of the game, basically out-Denging Deng. Luol also looks lost. The Sixers don’t really have a player for Deng to clamp down on. It is almost as if the absence of the a real superstar is detrimental to Deng’s play. He does seem to play best when he is playing off someone, when he is clamping down on the defensive end. His offense usually comes from his defence and that has been lacking. He is unfortunately carrying a wrist injury, which could not be helping him in the slightest.
However, the play of many Sixers have also helped fuel the wins. Jrue Holiday in particular has been playing out of his skin, turning in great performance after great performance. Most importantly, he’s not trying to do too much. Everything he does looks as if it is part of the offence, that it is natural. He rarely looks like he is forcing a play and is running Coach Doug Collin’s offense to perfection. Also, by getting out on the fast break, he brings the Sixer’s ridiculous athleticism into play, as shown by some of Iguodala’s and Thaddeus Young’s high flying dunks.
With the Bulls down 3-1, it looks like the Sixers will take this series. Even if the Bulls do get past the Sixers, they certainly are not slippng past the Celtics or the Heat. The Bulls championship hopes are most certainly shot this time around, especially without Noah, as well as Rose. The greatest measure of success is probably going to be how the rebound next year. Bulls players, staff and supporters are all desperately hoping that Rose’s knee injury will not stop him from playing at the same break neck speed that he usually does.
Because if he cannot, the Bulls could very well be facing a similar situation as the Portland Trailblazers and Brandon Roy. Promise cut short by injury.
One more win is all that is required for the lowly 76ers to topple the mighty Chicago Bulls as Spencer Hawes’ 22 points and clutch shooting powered them to a 82-89 win. Playing without not only Rose but also center Joakim Noah after he injured himself last game, the Bulls fought hard but could not stop the Sixers.
“When Spencer plays in a rhythm, he’s damn good.”
— Sixers head coach Doug Collins, on Hawes.
Carlos Boozer had another strong game, registering 23 points and 11 rebounds as the focus of the Bulls offense. Taj Gibson added 14 points and 12 rebounds as well as blocking four shots off the bench. Point guard Jrue Holiday poured in 20 and dished out 6 assists in another great performance. Could very well end up being a bit of a break out series for the young guard.
“We have to go back home and just play our game. We missed a number of open shots.”
— Chicago guard Kyle Korver.
Final Score: 91-103 Chicago Win (Chicago leads 1-0)
Despite a strong fightback towards the end of the final quarter, the Chicago Bulls took the series lead with a win against the Sixers at home. However, the focus of this game turned out to be Derrick Rose’s knee injury in the dying minutes. With the Sixers surging somewhat, Rose was left on the floor to perhaps quell any thoughts of a Philly resurrection. Then the worst possible thing for Bull’s fans happened. As he was driving towards the ring Rose jumped and landed, falling to his feet grimacing. Despite no contact whatsoever, Rose collapsed and had to be helped off the court. Unfortunately for him, he ended up tearing his ACL, ruling him out for the rest of the playoffs and seriously hurting the Bulls championship chances. To put it simply, the Bulls cannot get past Miami without Derrick Rose in the lineup. Yet now they will have to face that reality for the rest of their playoff run.
“I do not work backwards like you guys. The score was going the other way. He’s got to play. We sat him to about the 7-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Derrick has to work on finishing, on closing. Our team did not handle that part great. That’s what I was thinking.”
Thibodeau explaining his decision to keep Rose in the game.
Rose led the Bulls with 23 points before he was felled by injury while Elton Brand had 19 to lead the Sixers. Veteran guard Richard Hamilton also turned in a good game, only missing one shot on his way to 19 points.
(All times American)
Game 1 – Sat. April 28, Philadelphia at Chicago, 1 p.m., TNT
Game 2 – Tue. May 1, Philadelphia at Chicago, 8 p.m., TNT
Game 3 – Fri. May 4, Chicago at Philadelphia, 8 p.m., ESPN
Game 4 – Sun. May 6, Chicago at Philadelphia, 1 p.m., ABC
Game 5 * Tue. May 8, Philadelphia at Chicago, TBD
Game 6 * Thu. May 10, Chicago at Philadelphia, TBD
Game 7 * Sat. May 12, Philadelphia at Chicago, TBD, TNT
Not to long ago, this playoff series didn’t really seem likely. The Sixers were much higher in the standings then their current 8th seed position and were looking to prove that a team could win without a true superstar in their lineup. This does not look likely to present much of a challenge to the Bulls, as there really is no “No Rose, no Bulls argument”. If Rose does start to prove a factor, as he surely will, Andre Iguodala may play some defence on him, much like LeBron James did at times. Perhaps one of the keys here will be that. Elton Brand against Carlos Boozer will be another key match up, with the two veteran forwards likely to have to score highly for their respective teams. Bulls will get the win here
Game 1 – Sat. April 28, New York at Miami, 3:30 p.m., ABC/R
Game 2 – Mon. April 30, New York at Miami, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 3 – Thu. May 3, Miami at New York, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 4 – Sun. May 6, Miami at New York, 3:30 p.m., ABC/R
Game 5 * Wed. May 9, New York at Miami, TBD
Game 6 * Fri. May 11, Miami at New York, TBD
Game 7 * Sun. May 13, New York at Miami, TBD
Possibly one of the more exciting match ups of the Eastern Conference. Great contests at multiple positions and superstars littered all over the place. The highlight will no doubt be the competition between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the two 2003 alumni likely wanting the win over their compatriot. Both teams love to get out on the fast break, but its not secret that a big step towards stopping the Miami Heat is halting the run of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Amare Stoudemire’s play against Chris Bosh will be interesting to see, with Bosh having to deal with the physicality of Stoudemire, something he has shown in the past to dislike. Tyson Chandler’s shot blocking and ability to fill up the paint will also be essential in stopping the drives of Wade and James. Possible upset, but Miami likely to get the win.
Game 1 – Sat. April 28, Orlando at Indiana, 7 p.m., ESPN
Game 2 – Mon. April 30, Orlando at Indiana, 7:30 p.m., NBA TV
Game 3 – Wed. May 2, Indiana at Orlando, 7:30 p.m., NBA TV
Game 4 – Sat. May 5, Indiana at Orlando, 2 p.m., ESPN
Game 5 * Tue. May 8, Orlando at Indiana, TBD
Game 6 * Fri. May 11, Indiana at Orlando, TBD
Game 7 * Sun. May 13, Orlando at Indiana, TBD
Injuries will definitely be the determining factor in this series. The Pacers have quietly gone about having a good season as they secured the number three seed and Dwight Howard’s injury will make their playoff run much easier. David West, Danny Granger and co. will have a much easier time scoring in the paint without Dwight’s intimidating presence in the middle. Howard is really the only defensively minded player on the Magic team and they will struggle without him. Hedo will have to turn back to clock and Ryan Anderson will need to play out of his skin to force David West to play defence all the way out of to the three point line if the Magic are able to fit the series win here. Unlikely though.
Game 1 – Sun. April 29, Boston at Atlanta, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 2 – Tue. May 1, Boston at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m., NBA TV
Game 3 – Fri. May 4, Atlanta at Boston, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
Game 4 – Sun May 6, Atlanta at Boston, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 5 * Tue. May 8, Boston at Atlanta, TBD
Game 6 * Thu. May 10, Atlanta at Boston, TBD
Game 7 * Sat. May 12, Boston at Atlanta, TBD, TNT
Boston’s charge at the end of the season has them well place in this years playoffs. They avoid Miami and Chicago in the first round but the Hawks are no small hurdle to overcome in the first round. The Hawk duo of Josh Smith and Joe Johnson have been playing some of the best basketball of their careers, especially Josh Smith. But the suffocating defence and the inability of the Hawks to match up with Rajon Rondo should allow the Celtics to get the win here. Ray Allen could play a key role as he comes back from extended injury, and if he’s playing off the bench will provide a huge spark. Celtics to get the win here
Western Conference previews up before too long!
The Charlotte Bobcats have once last chance. One final chance to avoid going down as the worst team in NBA history as they lost to the Orlando Magic. J.J Redick’s career high 31 points helped push the ‘Cats closer to the edge of NBA lore. DJ Augustine had 23 points as well as 6 assists but it was not enough to get the Bobcats a much needed win. Despite Dwight Howard’s absence, the Magic have sealed the 6th seed in the playoffs. However, they suffered yet another injury blow with Glen Davis going down with an ankle injury. The injury leaves Ryan Anderson as the only man of considerable height going into the game against Memphis.
The Wizards owned the middle of the game as John Walls phenomenal performance lifted them to heir longest winning streak since 2007. Wall well and truly filled up the box score registering 23 points, 7 rebounds, 13 assists and 7 steals as he tore through the Cleveland defence. Potential Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving only played 6 minutes in the Cavaliers final match for the season. Only two players scored in double figures for the Cavs, with DJ Kennedy leading them with 12 points. After the match, Atawn Jamison announced that he would not be resigning with the team when he is a unrestricted free agent this summer. It will be interesting to see which teams show interest, as the veteran has shown that he can still offer something this year with the Cavaliers.
With the playoffs around the corner, a win against a fellow Eastern Conference playoff team was no doubt a confidence boost as the Chicago Bulls took down the Indiana Pacers. Carlos Boozer looked set for a big night after 10 points in the first quarter alone, but it was Kyle Korver who led the Bulls with 20 points off the bench. Reigning MVP Derrick Rose only scored 10 points on the night, his match fitness and form the greatest concern for the Bulls as they head into the playoffs. Lance Stephenson, filling the gap that the absent Danny Granger left, top scored for both teams as he had 22 points. Granger was out resting a sore knee and will be back before too long.
Chris Paul sat out the game as the New York Knicks continued to get their front court tandem clicking as they seemed to warm towards the playoffs with a win over the Clippers. With the loss, the Clippers fall 1/2 a game behind the surging Memphis Grizzlies for the fourth seed, who could very well steal the once seemingly safe Clipper home court advantage. JR Smith ended up being the driving force off the Knicks bench, scoring21 points. Blake Griffin had 29 points on 11-14 shooting while Randy Foye had 28 but shot much more poorly, only connecting on 9 of his 23 shots.
Evan Turner’s big 29 point game gave the Philadelphia 76ers the win as Andre Iguodala sat out for the Sixers. Luo Williams and Thaddeus Young also sat out as the Sixers started preparing themselves for the rapidly approaching playoffs. The Bucks on the other hand also rested most of their stars in their second last game of the season, with Monta Ellis, Ersan Ilyasova and a few others sitting the game out.Brandon Jennings led the Bucks with 19 points as well as 6 assists.
Kevin Durant had 32 points while Russel Westbrook had 30 points and 9 assists as the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame 25 points from Ty Lawson to win against Western Conference competitor Denver. Serge Ibaka blocked 4 shots to further strengthen his claim for Defensive Player of the Year. Derek Fisher also had 9 points off the bench for the Thunder.
In what was possibly Steve Nash’s final game for the Suns, they were not able to get the win as they lost by four points against a Spurs team that was resting its big three for the playoffs. Australian Patty Mills had 27 points as he was handed the start against premier point guard Steve Nash. Shannon Brown had 21 to lead the Sun while young big man Tiago Splitter had 26 points in only 19 minutes of play.
Carmelo Anthony’s 42 points 9 rebounds and 5 assists were not enough for the Knicks to defeat the Miami Heat in a potential first round preview. While Carmelo was huge, there was little help to be had from the rest of his team, with only J.R Smith reaching double figures. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade carried the Heat, scoring 29 and 28 points respectively. Chris Bosh also finished with 16, but more importantly out rebound Tyson Chandler as he played the center position, pulling down 14 boards.
Three players scored 20 points or more and Pau Gasol knocked down two clutch back to back threes in overtime as the Lakers swept the series between themselves and Dallas. With Kobe Bryant still ancient, the Lakers’ offense hardly struggled without him, albeit it did require big games from unusual sources. Dirk Nowitzki had 24 points but shot just 9-28 from the field. Jason Terry also had 21 points off the bench.
Rajon Rondo had 20 points and handed out 16 assists as the Boston Celtics cruised to a win against the Charlotte Bobcats. With the Big Three staying home for the game, it was left to the younger brigade to take care of business. They did not disappoint, with Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo all scoring 20 points. Greg Stiemsma swatted 6 shots for the Celtics. Gerald Henderson also had 22 for the Cats.
After taking down the Boston Celtics, the Toronto Raptors claimed another top Eastern scalp as they defeated the Atlanta Hawks by 18 points. Demar DeRozan had 23 points but the Hawks shot themselves in the foot, only hitting one three for the entire game. Josh Smith lead all scorers with 26 points on 11-20 scoring.
The Detroit Pistons pushed the Bulls to overtime but could not finish the game off as they lost by six. Rodney Stuckey lead all with 32 point. Derrick Rose continued to struggle in his retun, scoring 24 points on 9-22 shooting. Joakim Noah also had 20 points and 17 rebounds including a phenomenal 13 offensive rebounds. 4 starters played 20 minutes plus for the Bulls.
The Orlando Magic got the win butlost another bigman as Glen Davis went down with a big knee. The injury leaves the Magic with only one slight tall player left in Ryan Anderson. Jameer Nelson had 21 and 9 assists as well as 9 rebounds to lead both teams.
Antawn Jamison had 21 for the Cavs.
Marcus Thornton Knocked down the elbow jumper to win the game with 3.4 seconds left. Thornton had 20 points to go along with the game winner. Wesley Matthews was the highlight for the injury torn Trailblazers, scoring 31 points on 8-10 shooting from downtown.
The New Orleans Hornets had a hige upset as they beat the Memphis. Rudy Gay had 24 points in the loss while Eric Gordon lead the Hornets with 18. Carl Landry had a double double off the bench registering 16 points and 11 boards.
Afflalo and Ty Lawson both dropped twenty points and Andrew Miller hadned out 11 assists off the bench as well as 7 boards as the Denver Nuggets defeated the Houston Rockets by a comfortable 15 points. Chase Budinger had 19 off the bench for the Rockets.
Despite Dwight Howard returning to the lineup, the Magic lost to the New York Knicks by 16 points. The Knicks had 41 points off a 4 man bench while Melo had 19 to lead both teams. Tyson Chandler continued to prove that he is possibly the only big man to truly slow Dwight, holding the all-star centre to just 8 points.
John Wall’s 28 points and 10 assists were not enough for the Wizards to beat the Detroit Pistons as they went down by 99-94. Greg Monroe had 18 points while Rodney Stuckey had 15 points off the bench.
The Celtics were overrun in the second half by a determined Chicago Bulls outfit by 7. The Bulls recovered from their slow start to completely dominate the second half, with Luol Deng’s 26 points leading both teams. Paul Pierce scored 12 in the first term to spark the hot Celtics start but faded to finish with 22.
Chris Paul had 13 points 8 assists and 5 steals as the Clippers survived a hectic final few minutes to beat the Sacramento Kings. Rookie sensation Isiah Thomas had 17 points for the Kings while Randy Foye had 20 for the Clips.
How do the Bulls manage to keep winning without reigning MVP Derrick Rose? Almost any other team would not be able to win anywhere near the same amount of games if they lost their number one player for the amount of time that the Bulls have gone without Rose. Imagine if the Thunder lost Kevin Durant for that long? Sure they might win more then half their games, but could they really maintain that same dominance like the Bulls have? Doubtful. Westbrook would be double teamed and they would lose a great deal of scoring without Durant in the lineup, and they would struggle to make up for it.
Perhaps the main reason that the Bulls have been able to keep it up is their focus on defence. Thibodeau preaches defence like few other coaches, a true Doc Rivers acolyte. This is embodied by their recent win over the Hawks, holding the Atlantan team to just 77 points. They don’t miss Rose’s scoring because they are able to avoid having to score a great deal of points. Boozer and Deng can score enough points to win if they are able to keep the oppositions scoring down. Their loss against Denver shows this, as they weren’t able to keep up as the Nuggets scored over 100 points. That is where the Bulls truly miss Rose’s presence.
The strength of the Bulls bench also helps this, as they are able to keep up both their scoring and defensive presence when they go to the bench. This is especially relevant when you talk about their bench front court, with Taj Gibson and Omer Asik coming off the bench. This two players give up little on the defensive end, even being put on by Thibodeau when Boozer and Noah aren’t getting the job done. Defense appears to be the key to the Bulls’ ability to make up for Rose’s absence.