The Chicago Bulls handled the absence of Derrick Rose just fine last season, but they were prepared for that. His absence coming as a bit more of a surprise this time around, they completely collapsed against the Los Angeles Clippers, winning comfortable 121-82, led by an impressive effort from Chris Paul, including 16 points and 17 assists.
No Rose and no Jimmy Butler, the Bulls need to start from scratch. The defense, the thing that held them together last season, just wasn’t there, right from the start. In the end, the offense wasn’t doing much either, as the Bulls scored only 9 fourth quarter points, and are going to have to figure out what to do with the point guard position, getting a combined 0 points from the bench in that position, as Marquis Teague and Mike James didn’t have any positive impact.
There’s also the shooting guard issue. Chicago decided they’re going with Jimmy Butler playing out of position, and Mike Dunleavy backing him up. This creates so many problems in the rotation and on defense, and the Bulls still haven’t figured out through Tom Thibodeau how to handle this unforeseen situation, which might not have been that surprising considering Rose is quite injury prone.
The Clippers were mostly pleased about their aggression early on, jumping, in their own words, on the stunned Bulls right from the get go. They scored 31 first quarter points and kept on in that pace the whole game through, allowing plenty of rest to their starters, none of them playing more than 27 minutes.
Chicago struggled with the Clippers’ spacing, and the shooting of Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick. The Clippers finished with 58.5% from the field without doing anything special in the paint (36 points). Just excellent ball movement through Chris Paul and excellent finishing from Redick (19 points, 8-11 from the field) and Dudley (21 points, 4-of-5 from beyond the arc). Blake Griffin had a good yet quiet game with 15 points, 12 rebounds an 3 blocks, not finding it too difficult against the morally beaten Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.
The Clippers didn’t seem to pay any attention to Rose not playing. For them, it was simply a chance to have a better night than before, even on a back-to-back afternoon game. It turned out to be the best they’ve had all season.
Chris Paul – It’s the best game this season, we got the opportunity to sit all quarter. That’s huge for our team. This was our fourth game in five nights. We could have come in with a lot of excuses, but we did what we were supposed to do.
Chicago are heading into a brutal stretch of trying to remember what they did right last year. This time, it’s also without Jimmy Butler, at least on the start of the journey. The Clippers are in the same place they’ve always been. A good team, on the borderline of very good. Beating a team by 39 points doesn’t change the fact that the burden of proving they’re worthy of challenging for the title is still something they have to carry.