With Derrick Rose in the lineup, the Chicago Bulls were legitimate championship contenders. But now with the reigning MVP sidelined for the rest of the postseason with a torn ACL, just how far can the Bulls go?
Caleb: 99 days out of 100, writing about the Bulls is something I love doing more than pretty much anything else. But today is that one other day.
I think we all went through the five stages of grief yesterday as Bulls fans. I know I did. I finally reached acceptance late last night. But I still hate everything.
However, the Bulls' season continues, even if Derrick Rose's doesn't. And that means we here at Bulls 101 need to deal with this and then look past it. But how far can they go without Rose? What do we make of a team that went 18-9 without Rose in the regular season (including victories over several of the current playoff teams) but now features Luol Deng* as its best player as the intensity cranks up?
*I should point out that I love Luol, but he's not meant to be the best player on a championship team.
Honestly? I don't know. I have to think they can finish off the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, who really don't match up all that well with them and probably weren't that good to begin with. But I also kind of expect them to lose in Game 2, if only because I can only imagine how difficult it must be for them to keep up the intensity sans Rose.
But beyond that, we've seen this team take on the Boston Celtics without Rose. They won at home and lost on the road. So that has to be encouraging. But at the same time, that was the regular season. The playoffs are a different animal. And as someone pointed out yesterday, it was easier to play without Rose in the regular season because you knew he was coming back. You just had to keep the seat warm for him. This is not the case now. How will that affect the Bulls' trademark intensity?
Also, no way the Miami Heat lose to the Bulls without Rose. None whatsoever. An Eastern Conference Finals loss is the best case scenario here. Not sure how anyone could say otherwise.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go cry.
Avi: Potentially? The Bulls can still reach the finals. The team has played and beaten every Eastern Conference playoff team without Rose this season. As far as how they would perform against a team they've seen once this year, it's hard to say. But making the Finals is the potential.
Realistically? The Bulls could make it by the Atlanta Hawks to face Miami in the ECF or lose it in the second round against the Boston Celtics. Either way, I don't see the Finals in the Bulls' card. Don't get me wrong, I still believe in this team after what they've been able to do this season, but there's a difference between a couple of games over the course of a season and playing the same team repeatedly in a series. At this point, my advice to Chicago fans, and myself, is to just simply hope for the best.
Jason: I never could have imagined how good the Bulls would play without Rose this season. I felt that if they played a full season without him, the Bulls would be a borderline lottery team. But after watching them rack up quality wins without Rose in the lineup, I changed my tune. This team sans Rose is still one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. Period.
I have the utmost confidence in the Bulls to finish off the Sixers in round one. And then, I think they can beat either the Celtics or the Hawks. It would be very difficult, and a seven-game series would be a major possibility, but I'd like the Bulls chances against one of those two teams in a Game 7 at the United Center.
Sadly, I think the ride would end in the Eastern Conference Finals if the opponent is in fact the Miami Heat. And based on what we saw in the Heat's opening playoff game on Saturday, it most certainly will be. Yes, I know the Bulls have beaten the Heat without Rose this season, but the playoffs are a completely different beast. The Bulls would certainly give it their all, and it would not surprise me if they stole a game or two, but that's about it.
No matter what, I'm going to cheer this team harder than any Bulls team I've cheered for. These guys are a resilient bunch, and although their title dreams are likely shot, they will not go down without a fight. I can guarantee that.
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