- Scott Powers, Reporter
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CHICAGO -- The Philadelphia 76ers' confidence in their ability to defeat the Chicago Bulls in their first-round Eastern Conference quarterfinals playoff series didn't grow overnight with the news of Derrick Rose's season-ending injury.
The 76ers said Sunday they know firsthand just how good the Bulls can still be without their best player. The 76ers lost to the Bulls 89-80 without Rose in Chicago on March 17. C.J. Watson started at point guard for the Bulls in that win and had a team-high 20 points.
Rose played in just 39 of the 66-regular season games due to a variety of injuries, and the Bulls were 32-7 with him and 18-9 without him.
"One of the things I shared with our guys is (Rose) missed 26 or 27 games this year," 76ers coach Doug Collins said after Sunday's practice. "They have played without him. It's not going to be that he's not missed any games, and all of a sudden now, 'What are they going to do?' They've won some games without him. They've won some big games without him."
Collins did believe Rose's absence could help the 76ers with their defensive responsibilities and in rebounding. The Bulls grabbed 37 rebounds, including 10 offensive, in Saturday's 103-91 win in Game 1 of the series.
"One thing about Rose, when he's on the floor he brings so much attention to your defense," Collins said. "So you're constantly having to think about having two on the ball with him all the time. You get caught where they're playing four-on-three.
"The more we can limit the opportunities to have mismatches numbers-wise like that, it obviously helps us. We're hoping we're going to rebound the ball better, and we're not going to get strung out as much with what (Rose) brings to the team."
The 76ers are also preparing for a different style of point guard in Watson. With Rose, the 76ers tried to keep him from getting to the rim and preferred him to shoot outside. With Watson, they want to keep him from shooting and instead force him to drive.
"I don't think he's in attack mode as much as Derrick is," 76ers starting point guard Jrue Holiday said of Watson. "I think you have to watch him for his jump shot. Again, I think he's a really good 3-point shooter, especially from the top of the key. That's where he gets a lot of his shots. (We need to) really try to make him get in the paint and make a play. I think Derrick Rose is better at making plays in the paint. Watson, he's always able to knock that shot down."
Collins thought Rose's absence might change the Bulls' focus offensively. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau turned to Rip Hamilton and Kyle Korver on Saturday more than Collins had expected. The pair combined to shoot 11-of-15 and score 30 points.
"We'll see what Thibs is going to want to do tomorrow with the change," Collins said. "Is it going to be more (Carlos) Boozer post-ups? Is it going to be more to Luol Deng? (Saturday), they probably ran their one set with Rip and Kyle Korver more than we've seen it, and why not, it was working."
76ers forward Andre Iguodala expects Thibodeau to have the Bulls prepared. Iguodala spent some time with Thibodeau during the NBA All-Star weekend and learned of Thibodeau's knowledge of the game.
"Just playing up against them and being a student of the game and watching different teams play, you get a chance to realize that they're not a one-man team," Iguodala said. "They cover all areas and cover all aspects of the game of basketball in the right way. They play the ultimate team style of basketball. They're going to be tough whether it's the regular season or playoffs. I still think they're really a tough team.
"They've played without him in some big games. They have some experience. I think they know what it takes to win. We got to continue to worry about us. We have to be the aggressor come Game 2."
Collins said he and the 76ers were saddened by Rose's injury.
"Everybody on our team, in our organization is sick to our stomach what happened to that young guy," Collins said. "I was in contact with (John Paxson on Saturday night), Jerry Reinsdorf and Thibs just to let them how we felt about the young guy. He's everything that's right about the NBA. I know he's heartbroken for not being a part of this."
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