Reality for the Chicago Bulls is getting used to having Derrick Rose out from time to time. It might not make them any better (it doesn’t); it just means that they’re used to it, and doesn’t mess up the team’s offense and rhythm as much as it would for a different team missing one of it’s most important players.
Kirk Hinrich started for Rose while Jimmy Butler took on the responsibility of making up for “lost” points, scoring 32 points, a season high for the All-Star guard who is rather excited about the Bulls’ next opponent on their Western conference road trip, the Golden State Warriors, because of the defensive challenge it offers the Bulls.
Until that game comes, it’s about relishing their win over the Phoenix Suns, beating them on the road 103-97. The Bulls did a good job of making Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight work hard for their 44 combined points, shooting just 35.7% from the field and turning the ball over 7 times. P.J. Tucker finished with 20 points as well, but the Suns started poorly and finished poorly as well when the Bulls seemed to turn up their defense.
Hinrich did a good job in place of Rose with 14 points, still capable of filling in from time to time without the team filling the absence too much. Pau Gasol scored 17 points to go with 8 rebounds, not having too much trouble with Tyson Chandler. The Bulls aren’t getting much from whoever starts at the small forward position. Tony Snell didn’t score a single point (o-for-3), but the team’s defense is much better when he’s on the floor. Doug McDermott scored 8 points in 25 minutes and Aaron Brooks, staying the backup point guard, finished with a bench-high 12. Joakim Noah didn’t score, but grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Bulls continue to have these ups and down between games and during games, with Butler being their most consistent player so far, becoming more indispensable when Rose is out. Against the Warriors, having these kind of lapses, especially that last for almost two quarters, means guaranteed obliteration because no team in the NBA smells blood and acts upon it better than the Warriors right now. Against the Suns, you’re capable of cruising and hitting the gas at the right time, and still making it out with a win.