The Chicago Bulls haven’t missed a beat this year even with point guard Derrick Rose hobbled by injuries for most of the season. They have had the leagues’ best record for most of the year and could wrap up the number one seed in the Eastern Conference in the next couple of games but we all know that the postseason is an entirely different game in itself.
Matchups are everything in the playoffs and with the Bulls looking to draw Carmelo Anthony and the eighth seeded New York Knicks in the first round, the Bulls could be looking at a first round ouster if they are not careful.
Particularly because Rose hasn’t played well the last few games he has played. If Rose plays well then the Bulls should dispatch the Knicks with ease but if Rose continues to struggle then the Knicks could be the next eighth seed to steal a series from a number one seed.
Now I know it sounds insane to suggest that the Bulls who hold a 3-1 season edge in the series should be concerned about the lowly Knicks but let’s examine those games. The first two games were won by the Bulls when Mike D’Antoni was still coaching the Knicks. The Knicks have gone through a transformation since then.
Most of that transformation has been on the defensive side of the ball. The Knicks didn’t play much defense under D’Antoni but Woodson has held his players accountable since taking over as New York’s interim coach.
Still the last two games aren’t really anymore indicative of how this series may play out in the playoffs. In the Bulls overtime loss to the Knicks, Rose had missed the previous 12 games with a strained groin and was a little off his game although he did manage to pour in 29 points.
It was Anthony though who stole the show hitting two big threes; one to tie the game in regulation and send it into overtime and the other one to win the game.
And in their last meeting, the Bulls were without Rose and the Knicks were without both Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire. Anthony had a great shooting performance though scoring 29 points on 11 of 19 shooting on the night.
Anthony didn’t contribute much in any other area of the game though, especially on the boards bringing down only two rebounds in that game. Anthony has picked up both his scoring and rebounding since that game which is another thing that should frighten any team that will face New York in the playoffs.
Anthony scored 42 against the Miami Heat and had a triple-double scoring 35 points, 10 assists and 12 rebounds versus the Boston Celtics. Even scarier is that in those two games he shot 53% from the field and went 19 of 23 from the line.
And Anthony is doing all this damage as the only threat on the floor for his team. With Stoudemire now back from injury this team will be even more dangerous once the postseason starts which doesn’t bode well for the Bulls.
The Bulls have played well together in the absence of their star point guard Rose though but if he is unable to regain the form that made him an MVP in the 2010-2011 season then the Bulls may have a hard time getting out of the first round much less challenging the Heat for the conference crown.
And even if the Bulls do grind out a win in the series with Rose playing less than stellar ball, the Bulls have to be weary of a hard-fought series against the Knicks. If the Knicks force the Bulls to expend too much energy trying to get out the first round then it could make them an easier target for whoever they may face in the second round.
So the fate of the Bulls may rest on the shoulders of their strong-willed but injury-plagued star point guard.
If Rose isn’t able to play to his usual All-Star level it doesn’t necessarily spell doom for the Bulls but it could be cause for concern. Of course if he is able to play the way he is accustomed to then it would make things a lot easier on the Bulls.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at RHall_TPFB@Yahoo.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.