The Chicago Bulls keep grinding out wins with some uninspiring offensive basketball, a little bit of Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler and mostly good defense. Derrick Rose? He’s injured again, and considering how he’s played this season, it’s not such a disaster to have him sit out a couple of games.
Rose, who has now missed three games this season, had an ankle keep him out of two games in November, and missed the Bulls 102-100 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers due to some hamstring tendinitis. It’s not a major issue, and usually a day-to-day kind of injury, but with Aaron Brooks scoring 29 points, maybe giving Rose more than a day or two of rest (next game for them is on January 1 against the New York Knicks) isn’t such a bad idea.
Butler finished with 28 points and hit a game-winning alley oop in overtime, with a beautiful pass from Pau Gasol setting him up. Butler was covered pretty well by Paul George, but his connection and understanding with Gasol was enough to give him the half a second he needed in order to keep George on the ground, while he was already up in the air for the tip that won the game, and keeps the Bulls with 12 losses, which if things go right for them, keeps them on pace to reach second place in the Eastern Conference.
Are the Bulls actually better without Rose? Well, the numbers show they are. He has a -1.4 net rating this season and the Bulls are 6.4 points per 100 possessions better in net rating when he’s on the bench or not playing at all. Brooks, usually playing against second units but not exclusively, has a fantastic +7.9 net rating, and the Bulls are nine points per 100 possessions better with him than without him this season. He’s not a better player than Rose, and maybe they could have looked for a different backup point guard this offseason. However, right now, he’s doing very well for them, mostly with the second unit.
In the long run, Rose has to be involved, and be better than what we’ve seen from him so far, averaging just 14.4 points per game. His last three games have been better, averaging 21.3 points while shooting 48.1% from the field, and the whole mask coming off thing could be the reason for this. But the Bulls need a more accurate Rose, a more aggressive Rose, and one that doesn’t drag the team’s offense down. On the other hand, maybe him hitting a good stride finally means he needs to get back on the court as soon as possible, as long as he’s healthy.