When the Chicago Bulls defeated the Miami Heat in overtime last night, it would mark the first time the Bulls would have consecutive wins over their conference foe dating back to last year’s regular season. Considering that Derrick Rose shot a miserable 1-for-13 from the field, with three of the starters combining for only 14 points, it’s a miracle the Bulls were even in position to win this game. The victory temporarily gives the Bulls a 2-1 edge in the season series, but most importantly it moved them closer to claiming the top spot in the conference for the second straight year. In spite of all of this, I can’t say that I’m not worried about this team with the playoffs just two weeks away.
The first reason is because even though they have played well without Derrick Rose, posting a 16-7 record in the games he has missed, they will need him to play at a high level if they are going to have sustained success in the playoffs. Being that he has been sidelined with a variety of injuries this year, I’m not sure what version of our superstar we will see when the second season begins. Another concern is Rose’s back-court mate, Rip Hamilton. He was suppose to be the piece that would help the Bulls surpass the Heat should the two teams square off again in the playoffs. However, like Rose, he has missed a ton of games as well and I’m not sure the seven games remaining on the schedule will be enough time for these two players to develop a solid rhythm.
Before I make my point about the second unit, I want to make it clear that I love the players who come off the bench for this squad. A lot of these guys would probably be starting for a number of other teams in the league, but they accept their roles and don’t bicker about how many minutes they are given while always pulling for each other no matter what. This unit was the difference in the Bulls’ win over the Heat as they outscored Miami’s reserves 47-7, giving them a 103-22 edge in the last two games these teams have played against each other.
My question here is will this unit show up in the playoffs? I remember how elated the city was after we beat up on the Heat in the opening game of the Conference Finals and how empty we felt four games later, when then the Heat were moving on to the Finals. This unit was noticeably absent in that series and if we’re going to seriously contend for the title this year, the bench will need to have a major impact in the postseason as well. The bottom line is no matter how well we play during the regular season, it will not mean anything if we don’t at least make it to the Finals this year.