The saga of the injury issues of Derrick Rose continues to amaze, with another game being finished without him, as the Chicago Bulls lose to the Denver Nuggets 114-109, once again having to deal for almost an entire game without their biggest star.
Rose missed four games with a hamstring injury before returning to play rather well against the Utah Jazz. Turns out fitness isn’t something that lasts forever with Rose, who played for just 10 minutes in the first quarter before exiting with tightness in his hamstring, never to return. He finished with 2 points and 3 assists. He still hasn’t completed two games from start to finish for the Bulls back to back this season.
Maybe it’s all in his head? Tom Thibodeau said Rose just needs to get out there and play, there’s no other way of overcoming this roadblock, which is more than just a physical thing. Maybe it’s something the Bulls themselves need to change, and not freak out at the smallest sign of pain from Rose. He knows his body better than anyone, but it’s really getting ridiculous that his status from fit to injured changes on an almost hourly basis.
Even without Rose, the Bulls should have been able to beat the Denver Nuggets, one of the hottest teams in the league. After a 2-7 start with head coach Brian Shaw publicly questioning his survival chances at the position, the Nuggets have won five games in a row. Maybe it’s karma from being best pals with the NBA subreddit, but maybe after more than a year of trying to find what’s working, the Nuggets, with Danilo Gallinari playing wel again, might be climbing back to where they left off when George Karl was fired.
For the Bulls, it was another very good performance from Jimmy Butler, their MVP this season. Butler scored 32 points with 18-of-20 from the line. Butler seems to have been watching the James Harden tapes, simply attacking the rim, throwing his body all around the place and initiating contact that gets him to the foul line rather than be called for an offensive foul or simply let the play carry on. Regardless of semantics, Butler is a different player this season. Better.
It wasn’t just Rose who missed out on most of the game. Joakim Noah didn’t play, and Taj Gibson was missing as well. That’s almost the entire premise of defense for the Bulls, which without them simply isn’t the same, exemplified by the 114 points the Nuggets scored, led by Ty Lawson, scoring 20 points and adding 12 assists. He was followed by Arron Afflalo with 19 and Gallinari, playing off the bench, scoring 15 points.
The Bulls are a very good team, but they need their players to be healthy for that to show. The Nuggets? Still a work in progress, and last season had a nice run after a rough start before bottoming out again. This season they’re a bit deeper and a bit more filled with quality. Is it enough in the Western conference? Probably not, but it’s too soon to tell. For now, they took advantage of a depleted Bulls team to expand the incredible margin between West and East in terms of head to head wins, which makes some call for the NBA to scrap conferences.