Still alive (but barely): Bulls 95, Wizards 87

After he scored a game-high 24 points in last night’s let’s-try-to-keep-this-thing-going road win over the Wizards, Derrick Rose said: “I try to remind everybody that we’re going to be in the playoffs, we’ve just got to continue to win. Even though the task is going to be hard, we’re still going to fight and try to come together.”

Statements like that make you wonder whether Derrick has read his team’s injury report. Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and James Johnson are all dealing with foot injuries. Kirk Hinrich has that sprained left ankle. And Rose — who already had a sore wrist — banged up a hip in yet another hard fall.

True, Luol Deng returned last night, scoring 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting in a surprising 28 minutes off the bench. But nobody knows whether that strained calf muscle will allow Lu to suit up tonight against the Bobcats.

Said Deng: “We’ll see. I really don’t know how it’s going to respond. The other day from practice it had tightened up a little bit, so, I’m sure it will be a little bit tight. But, it’s feeling good right now.”

In light of the injury problems and the fact that the eighth-place Raptors — who are still 1 /12 games ahead in the race for the East’s final playoff spot — have a distinct scheduling advantage, Rose’s optimism seems somewhat unfounded…maybe even a little wacky.

But you know what? I like it.

I know, I know. I pooh-poohed Derrick’s positive visualization techniques a few days ago. But after spending a little extra time thinking about it, and after flipping my sarcasm switch to the “off” position, it struck me that this is yet another important step in Rose’s maturation as a player.

Remember: Derrick came into the league as one of those quiet, lead-by-example type of players. The kid was — and, really, still is — humble to a fault and appears at time naturally disinclined to let anything but his own game do the talking.

But now…now Rose is encouraging his teammates to rise to the challenge while putting all the pressure on himself by being the one to guarantee the Bulls will make the playoffs.  Remember, this is the same guy who practically had to have words pried out of him with a crowbar last season. This is quite a turnaround.

Don’t get me wrong. Rose is still letting his game do some talking. Last night’s performance included a couple buzzer-beaters to end the first two quarters and this sick role reversal-style alley-oop from “point center” Joakim Noah:

That said, it’s really good to see Rose taking a more active role in leading the team. Let’s face it, Rose is Chicago’s future, and — regardless of whether the Bulls actually qualify for the postseason — this kind of do-or-die, it’s-all-on-me situation is crucial for his development into a frachise player.

And so is tonight’s do-or-die-again game against the Bobcats.

By the way, I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to Taj Gibson, who had a fantastic game (14 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks). Tonight he gets to match up against Tyrus Thomas, the player he made expendable. That should be a fun subplot to watch unfold.

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4 Responses to Still alive (but barely): Bulls 95, Wizards 87

  1. PTFC April 3, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    I was at that game, sick alley oop. I saw it coming a mile away when point guard Noah started running the floor and I kept saying “alley oop alley oop” and the puzzled Wizards fans in front of me was probably thinking “what is this guy talking about”, then boom Rose took flight. The fans in front of me covered their faces in embrassment. It was all in fun, wizards fans are good sports (I guess you have to be when your team is trash). The guy next to me was hilarious all night making fun of his own team.

    But anywho I agree, I like Rose’s leadership (doesn’t mean he has to be right, but be optimistic and keep trying, don’t give up). Also Toronto is very suspect, maybe even more suspect then the Bulls because they have been just as mediocre but have no injury excuses. Won’t be surprise if the Raptors hand over that final spot to the Bulls.

    Erick April 3, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    Agree on Rose. It’s nice that Rose is confident about making the playoffs, do-or-die, whatever; but playing well along with it is most encouraging.

    bobbysimmons April 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    Matt why you got to focus on all the negatives:

    “Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and James Johnson are all dealing with foot injuries. Kirk Hinrich has that sprained left ankle. And Rose — who already had a sore wrist — banged up a hip in yet another hard fall”

    My spin would be Noah and Gibson injuries are improving, Johnson is going to fight through it, and Hinrich and Deng bounced back well yesterday. Just to point out, that even though the standings show that we are 2 games behind Toronto, we are in fact 3 games behind them, since they own the tiebreak if we end up with the same record, ie. we have to finish one game better than them to make the playoffs.

    Our Sched, what we and Toronto must do to for us to make the playoffs:

    Charlotte, Milwaukee, Cleveland @ home (W,W,L)
    NJ, Toronto @ away (W,W)
    Boston @ home (W)
    Charlotte @ away (W)


    Toronto Sched:

    GS @ home (W)
    Cleveland @ away (L)
    Boston @ home (L)
    Altanta @ away (L)
    Chicago @ home (L)
    Detriot @ away (W)
    NY @ home (W)


    Yes, looks dismal, but maybe we can pull it out.

  4. Ryan April 3, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    Like I have said the past month – it is DO or DIE now… Win and Get In. After tonight the next 4 games for the Bulls and Toronto will make or break the season for either team. A win tonight would give the Bulls some momentum and give the Raps some pressure. Toronto plays Philly tonight – I am a 24 hour Iguodala fan followed by a 24 hour Monte Ellis fan. Charlotte will be a tough task, so we will need Deng and Hinrich to perform, the rooks need to bring energy, and the Bulls need to keep running.

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