While it’s no secret that Derrick Rose has played lights out all season and is the clear cut leader in the Most Valuable Player race, Rose has an opportunity to further bolster his reputation as an elite NBA star in the upcoming 2011 playoffs. Rose’s numbers against the other teams in the Eastern Conference playoffs are ridiculously good. In four games against the Indiana Pacers this year, whom the Bulls will face in the first round, Rose is averaging 27 points per game. He scored 42 points in the final regular season meeting with the Pacers on March 18th.
Despite these remarkable numbers, Rose is going to need help from the rest of his team if he wants to lead the franchise to its seventh title. Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau has made the team a much better defensive unit and center Joakim Noah is one of the team’s defensive cornerstones. Noah has been a force to be reckoned with most of the year but he’s been fighting the injury bug all season; he’s currently recovering from a sprained ankle that forced him to miss three games. In the last four games since his return, Noah has averaged 7.3 rebounds per game and 5.5 points per game. Obviously, those numbers aren’t going to cut it in the playoffs. It’s important that the Bulls’ staff use the remaining time before the playoffs begin to get Noah back on track and most importantly, healthy.
Carlos Boozer is another key piece to the puzzle if the Bulls plan a deep run in the playoffs. Boozer played extremely well in December when coming back from an injury of his own that kept him out a month but his play of late has been middle of the pack at best. Boozer isn’t exactly a defensive juggernaut so he needs to become the number 2 guy behind Rose on offense. In a March 2nd game against the Atlanta Hawks, the Bulls blew a 17 point halftime lead to lose the game 83-80. Rose was 5 for 21 scoring 12 points and committed six turnovers. Boozer wasn’t much better; he was 5 for 11 scoring only 11 points. If Rose struggles, Boozer needs to take over.
Still, Rose put the Bulls on his back and carried them all season while Noah and Boozer were ailing. However, as great as Rose is, game-play will become more aggressive in the playoffs and a one man show might not be the greatest recipe for success. We’ve seen what this team can do when it’s firing on all cylinders and getting solid contributions from everyone. The Bulls will need to play at a consistent level throughout the post season if they want to accomplish their goal. If they don’t, it’s going to be a short run and that would be disappointing for a team that has the potential to win it all.