|With Derrick Rose out, the Bulls will have to find another way to the title. (Getty Images)|
Derrick Rose's season is over. The Chicago Bulls' is not.
After Rose suffered a torn ACL Saturday aftenoon against the Philadelphia 76ers, the immediate response is shock, disappointment, and resignation. Well, the MVP's out, time to pack it in. But the Bulls have thrived all season long with Rose having missed 25-plus games with injury. They know how to play without him, they know how to win without him. The plan all along was to survive till the playoffs, and then lean on Rose to take them to the title. That plan's gone.
So what's the plan now? For starters, they have to beat the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers' defensive approach should change considerably. But with the kind of talent the Bulls have, and their execution throughout the season, they can likely get past the Sixers. And with some momentum, that can get them confidence to take on their second round opponent.
The big key is going to be offense. The Bulls have relied on getting easy looks through ball movement throughtout the season without Rose. In the playoffs, with a tougher attack defensively from teams, those plays get more difficult. John Lucas III and C.J. Watson will face the toughest attack on their dribble they've seen all year. Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer have to step up and produce offense consistently. The Bulls were helped Saturday by the emergene of Rip Hamilton who torched the Sixers comeing off screens. The Bulls feature more off-ball movement than they did last year. They just need one player, whether it's Watson, or Lucas to create offense off the dribble. The fact that Boozer and Joakim Noah aren't consistently able to score out of the post creates issues because you need to force the double in order to kick the ball out and jumpstart rotations.
The Sixers might actually be less equipped to defend a team without Rose because their big struggle Saturday wasn't Rose despite his 23 points, but the points created by off-ball movement. No Rose means fewer ISOs where the Sixers have defenders to throw at the primary scorer.
Things become more difficult against the Celtics, or Hawks, and even more so against likely opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat. But first, it's the Sixers.
The Bulls aren't sunk, but they have no room for error, now. Kyle Korver has to hit his open shots. Same for Rip Hamilton. Lucas and Watson have to avoid turnovers. Deng has to shoot the lights out like he did in Game 1, and Boozer has to shoulder a bigger share of the offense. That's a lot that has to go right. But the Bulls' biggest strength, their defense, isn't affected by the loss of Rose, their defense is systemic. And it is brutal.
The Bulls aren't dead yet.
But they'll need to play close to perfect from here on out to keep their championship dreams alive.