UPSTART 76ERS USE DISRESPECT AS UPSET FUEL
They have frontcourt depth, slashing wings, good 3-point shooters and a cohesive locker room, not to mention the most prepared coach in the NBA.
So while it wasn't a surprise that the Bulls went 18-9 without Rose in the regular season, I also won't be surprised if they lose this series to Philadelphia. It won't be in five, but it might be in six.
After Rose went out, the city rallied behind the team. Philadelphia surely noticed, and disrespect is fuel.
The Sixers are far from perfect, but in a short series, some of their deficiencies could be masked, and the Bulls' could be highlighted. In Game 2, the Sixers shot 59 percent, a number that won't be approached for the rest of the series. But it wasn't as if they were making everything out of sheer luck.
Chicago's poor offensive performance, hampered by the Sixers' defensive changes in the second half, gave Philadelphia room to run. The Bulls couldn't get off good shots and were forced into late-shot clock, contested looks that turned into transition baskets.
In the first half, Jrue Holliday went off, going one-on-one. C.J. Watson hasn't played well in weeks, and John Lucas III is offensive-minded, to say the least.
Now, Chicago has been amazingly resilient. The only time the team has lost three in a row in the Thibodeau era was in last year's Eastern Conference finals. But the Sixers have confidence after a win, even more so knowing Rose is out.
There is no one player who will take over for Rose's scoring and presence. The Bulls need everyone to play better. The variables involved make this a very interesting series.
BULLS ARE CHALLENGED -- NOT IN TROUBLE -- AGAINST 76ERS
Trouble. By definition the Chicago Bulls were in it at the 1:12 mark of the fourth quarter of Game 1, when Derrick Rose's ACL decided Dwight Howard should no longer be the best player missing these playoffs.
Trouble. A word used when panic begins to set in, when the road team of a playoff series ties the series and has the next two games on its home court. Trouble. What my man Jon Greenberg and probably over half the city feels the Bulls are in.
As much as saying the Bulls are in trouble makes sense, I can't, at this moment, help pay for the rims on that bandwagon. Trouble, by general opinion, means that the Bulls are in jeopardy of losing this series against the Sixers. That they are going to do what the Spurs did last season against Memphis, that a 1-seed is going to bow out to an 8-seed.
See, there's a difference between being challenged and being in trouble. What the Bulls are about to experience is what it feels like to be challenged. The Sixers see blood and opportunity now that Rose is not in the equation. What they don't see is vulnerability. A necessary component for a team to be in trouble.
One loss does not redirect the trajectory of a playoff series. Even when the lead Avenger goes down. Game 2 was the proverbial funeral for the Bulls. That was the reality-check game when they realized that D-Rose was gone and -- unlike the regular season -- not coming back.
They were emotionally disadvantaged and drained. We should have expected that. Saying that the Bulls are in trouble against the Sixers by virtue of their second-half performance in that game is a rush to judgment, even with Rose out for the series. That performance is not who the Bulls are, and not who they will show themselves to be the rest of this series.
Trouble? Nah. Not yet. And anyone who believes that the Bulls are, doesn't really know this team.