A couple of days ago I wrote an article dedicated to defending Derrick Rose, a topic worth focusing on, I thought, as the Sixers prepared for their series against the Bulls. I watched a ton of game film to focus on how to stop Derrick Rose and how he used the attention he draws to put his teammates in advantageous situations. The Bulls have done a great job of putting great shooters coming off of screens and offensive rebounders around Rose, punishing defenders if they lost sight of their man while trying to help on Rose. Without Rose on the court, that obviously changes things.
That leaves the Sixers trying to figure out what the Rose-less Bulls are and are not. Luckily, the Bulls gave the Sixers, and the rest of the Eastern Conference, film to watch of what kind of team they'll be without their superstar.
They're still a very good team (18-9) with an incredible defense, one that has actually picked up with Rose on the bench. It's on the offensive end where they've taken the hit, dropping about 3 points per 100 possessions in offensive efficiency.
C.J. Watson will take over for Rose in the starting lineup. You'll remember Watson, as he torched the Sixers for 20 points, including 4-8 from downtown, back in the Bulls win without Rose in March. Watson averaged 11.3 points and 4.6 assists on only 35% from the floor as a starter. But if Watson gets hot from downtown, he can certainly be a factor offensively.
Like Rose, they like to run Watson off a lot of pick and rolls. Unlike Rose, Watson is primarily a shooter off the pick and roll, and one that can get hot if you continue to go under on the pick and roll while defending him.
The other main beneficiary, in terms of minutes, from the Rose injury is John Lucas. Lucas shot his way to 11.8 points per game (on 11.5 field goal attempts) in April. That 11.5 field goal attempts came in only 21+ minutes per game. If the Bulls are content to bring Lucas in there and try to run their offense through his usage, low efficiency, style, the Sixers should welcome that, and make Lucas pay on the defensive end, as he would become their one major defensive weakness.
Richard Hamilton also really picked up his play with Rose on the bench, although this could easily be explained as Rip finally getting healthy. Following Hamilton and Korver running off of screens is still going to be a key for this series regardless of whether Rose is on the bench.
Of course, keeping the Bulls off the offensive glass is still a major component to stopping them offensively. In fact, the Bulls have actually been a slightly better offensive rebounding team with Rose on the bench. The Bulls grabbed 10 offensive rebounds on only 38 missed field goals last game, a clear problem the Sixers need to work on for game 2.
From the Sixers standpoint, I would definitely start Turner over Jodie Meeks, mostly from a defensive standpoint. Meeks struggled to defend Rip coming off of screens early in game 1, leading first to Iguodala switching onto Rip and then Turner to start the second half. Particularly with Meeks struggling shot (the Milwaukee game notwithstanding), it just doesn't make sense to take the huge defensive dropoff. It appears that Doug is leaning that way.
The X-factor may be how the Bulls respond, from an energy standpoint. They could either come out with a ton of energy, banding around each other in support of their fallen star, or they could come out lethargic. Judging by how they played without him earlier in the season I would reckon it will be the former, but this injury, both in terms of when it happened and the severity of it, is a different animal.
The bigger question is, if the Sixers are able to steal a game and the series, does it change anything? Does winning a round against a team without the reigning MVP change the course the Sixers are on, proving the naysayers wrong and solidifying their legitimacy?