Playoffs still in reach for Rose-less Bulls

By Rhema Rhea

Since the injury to three-time NBA All-Star Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls’ play on the court has not been the same, but the playoffs should be in reach.

Prior to Rose’s injury to his meniscus in his right knee in a Nov. 22 matchup against the Portland Trailblazers, his play was improving and the Bulls were sitting pretty in the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

Before the injury the Bulls had won five of their last seven matchups and Rose was coming off his best shooting performance of the season, as he shot 45 percent from the field on 9-for-20 shooting against the Denver Nuggets.

The early season highlight of the year came when the Bulls ended the then 9-0 Indiana Pacers’ win streak on Nov. 16. The Bulls played the way they have been known to under head coach Tom Thibodeau and held the Pacers to 94 points on 42 percent shooting. Rose was pretty comfortable from behind the three-point line during this matchup, hitting six of his 11 attempts from deep.

But since the Rose injury Chicago is 1-3 and has fallen to the seventh spot in the conference standings. The Bulls have not been finding the basket as often, averaging just under 90 points per game since his absence.

Kirk Hinrich has seen more action on the court and has done a fine job. One key game in which his presence was felt was against the Detroit Pistons, the Bulls’ lone win since losing Rose. Hinrich totaled 12 points and seven assists. Now, those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but with the way the ball was being distributed and with four teammates reaching double figures, I’m fine with a 12 and seven performance.

With Jimmy Butler also out of the lineup, players like rookie Tony Snell have seen some action lately — he has actually made the starting lineup his last two games. Mike Dunleavy has been there to hit an occasional three-point bucket or two a game, and has not been a bad addition.

For a team that went 45-37 last season, and made it to the second round of the playoffs, I don’t see why the Bulls can’t get back there again.

With Butler coming back, the Bulls still have guys like Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson on the roster. With Thibodeau still at the helm preaching a defense which is ranked the fourth-best in the NBA and only allowing 92.1 points per game, a fourth- or fifth-place finish is not farfetched for the Bulls.

If you take a look at the teams that are ahead of the Bulls — Toronto, Charlotte and Atlanta — the only team I see that might have a chance of finishing above the Bulls is Charlotte.

Yes, the Bulls are struggling, but I think they can get it together. Missing guys like Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli from last season’s bench has been key, but things will work out and the Bulls will be just fine.