I wrote about it last week, but the Chicago Bulls had a unique opportunity to get their season back on track. They were entering a very favorable week-long stretch that featured a lot of opponents that wouldn’t lay down and die, but were vulnerable enough to help Chicago’s struggling offense get back on its feet. At the time, the Denver Nuggets were looking like the sleeper tanking team of the Western Conference, but in the past week they, like the Bulls, have been busy turning their situation around. Five wins later and I was starting to look like…well I don’t want to say a prophet, but yes, I was starting to look like a prophet. But then second half struggles and another Derrick Rose injury happened.
The Bulls’ loss to Denver on the road was understandable, but still disappointing for a game on a five-game win streak. Chicago came came out firing on the second night of their back-to-back against the Portland Trail Blazers, building an early double-digit lead to give them the 59-44 advantage at the half. Rose was once again aggressive in the first half, putting up 17 points on 5-of-16 shooting. Normally you’d like to see more efficiency, but Chicago had a big lead and need someone to shoot it since the Bulls were coming off an 87-point performance against Denver’s horrendous defense.
But the real test came early in the third quarter when the Blazers went on a run and cut the lead to four halfway through the third quarter. Portland quickly went on to take the lead as Chicago looked completely helpless on the offensive end. And then like that, Chicago lost him again. Rose had to be taken to the locker room with a leg injury and the game suddenly seemed less important as everyone waited to hear the latest diagnosis. Chicago’s PR team said it was a right knee injury and by the way he couldn’t put any weight on his right leg, it looked serious.
The Butler Did It:
Jimmy Butler‘s injury was a potential problem for developing chemistry, but Derrick Rose’s injury is obviously a major setback. Chicago not only lost the game, but they may have lost the war now that Derrick Rose is out for the foreseeable future. Rose is the piece Chicago needs to contend in the East. Suddenly Butler’s week-to-week diagnosis doesn’t seem so bad.
Here’s the thing about Chicago’s bench so far: they don’t really have a good one. Butler’s absence really revealed it, but we’ve seen flashes of this problem all season long. Mike Dunleavy hasn’t been worthy of the Mike’s Hard Lemonade moniker I’ve been promoting all season. Taj Gibson, like Derrick Rose, had a brilliant preseason but so far has yet to deliver on the goods. Kirk Hinrich plays good defense but can’t score consistently. Marquis Teague is still playing like a third-string point guard. And Nazr Mohammed is Nazr Mohammed.
It all starts with Chicago’s starting five, who have all been inconsistent at times and brilliant at others. But this team still has only put together one solid effort over 48 minutes and that was against the Pacers. It’s still early, but if injuries strike as they often do, and Derrick Rose is out for an extended period of time, this Bulls team does not have the depth to keep up with some of the East’s juggernauts.