The Chicago Bulls, Even Without Derrick Rose, Look Like the Team to Beat in the East

Derrick Rose missed his fourth straight game, but the Chicago Bulls have gotten used to their star missing sitting on the sidelines with some kind of injury this season. He has already missed 14 games in 2011-2012, after missing a total of five in his previous three seasons in the league. As yet another win proved, this time a beat-down of the Orlando Magic, the Bulls have enough to handle the load, even without their MVP.

Carlos Boozer needs to be on the trading block more often. Averaging 15.5 points and 8.3 rebounds this season, Boozer led the Bulls with 24 points and 13 rebounds, looking more aggressive than he has in a while, as Taj Gibson was hardly needed this time to come off the bench and outplay the All-Star. On the other hand, taking Dwight Howard off the trading block hasn’t done well for the Orlando Magic, losing 59-85.

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The Magic have lost 3 of their last 4 games since beating the Miami Heat in overtime, followed by an announcement by Howard that he’s staying with the Orlando Magic and removing his opt-out-of-the-contract clause. A few more losses, a few more performances like these, and I’m pretty sure he’ll be thinking about Brooklyn or who know where pretty soon.

For the Bulls, it’s depth. Luol Deng has missed nine games this season. Rip Hamilton, who was supposed to add that missing something to the Chicago Bulls, has missed almost every game, absnet on 31 night of the season’s 48. Still, the Chicago Bulls, who have won 13 of their last 15 games, who have the best record in the NBA (38-10), are doing fine.

Plenty of credit has got to be bestowed upon Tom Thibodeau. Reaching 100 career wins faster than any other head coach in NBA history, even faster than Phil Jackson, has his unit playing the right kind of basketball almost every night, no matter who’s on the floor. There are dips in the offensive ability, but the belief in their defense and in each other, knowing that turning to the bench isn’t some last resort kind of option, brings them back and makes them stronger, especially in the close games.

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Having John Lucas III, the third string point guard as a matter of fact, come off the bench for another 20 point performance, is simply another assurance of how deep this team really is. Of how unpredictable it can be in terms of contribution. This isn’t the Miami Heat, who’ll get 60+ from their big three, or the Oklahoma City Thunder who work along the same lines.

Derrick Rose will probably (although he’s struggling at times this season) get you the 25 points, and the rest is up in the air. As long as everybody plays defense, stifling defense, like the one that left the Magic shooting 35.3% from the field, as Van Gundy’s approach of Howard and four shooters from the outside (4-20 from three points) failed once more. This isn’t the kind of basketball that wins playoff games, especially not against these kind of defenses.

It’s hard, pretty much impossible, to see the Chicago Bulls winning the NBA title without Derrick Rose. Despite their 10-4 record without him, there’s no doubt that having one of the best players in the league in your lineup helps, and more. But  with Rose knowing it doesn’t all have to be on him, as the Bulls painfully learned in the Miami series a year ago, makes them that more dangerous come the postseason.

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