We have already seen what the Bulls can do this season but injuries have placed a shadow over the damage they could be inflicting in the East.
Jaokim Noah returned to action last night as the Bulls took on the Toronto Raptors. It was the young center’s first game since December 15 when he went down with an injured thumb which just so happened to be a game against the lowly Raptors.
Ultimately, the Bulls lost last night 118-113 but Noah looked good. He finished the night with seven points and 16 rebounds. He continued his play characterized by a high shooting percentage with smart shots and rebounding, rebounding and a little more rebounding.
However, Derrick Rose was the player of the evening with 32 points and 10 assists but the Bulls need to improve on the road. With this loss, the Bulls now sit atop a 38-17 record with a .500 record in other teams’ stadiums at 13-13. So far, they have raked up embarrassing losses in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Golden State and now Toronto.
Chicago is one of the top rebounding teams on the road, Rose scores more during away games and they are essentially in the middle of the pack in the rest of the offensive categories when visiting other cities. Additionally, they are sixth in the league in points allowed at away games.
They are losing by an average of six points a game in all 13 of their road losses with six of those games decided by six points or less. It’s a tell-tale sign of a young team: losing close games down to the wire. Rose has shown that he is clutch over the course of the season but the numbers above show that they need more players that are willing to step up when it matters most. Noah is that player.
He proved in college that he plays with a lot of heart and actually gives substance to the term role player. He does a lot of dirty work under the glass and plays a level of ball that doesn’t lend itself to All-Star appearances or Nike shoe deals. He is blue collar to the core.
Last night was only the ninth time that he and Carlos Boozer have suited up in the same game and both are key to a successful frontcourt in Chicago. We have already seen that the Bulls cannot handle the size of the Celtics and both being healthy will definitely help against the oversized sets that Doc Rivers can put out on the court.
Tonight, Chicago will be suiting up against the Heat at home. They have the Central Division in the palm of their hand with the flight of LeBron James from Cleveland, the implosion that occurred in Detroit and underachievement in Milwaukee. Indiana is the only other team that can compete in the division and they have already beaten them three times.
With the Bulls now healthy, it’s up to them to show that they can win close games on the road.
Here are some upcoming road games to keep in mind for Rose and the Bulls.
March 4th in Orlando
March 6th in Miami
March 18th in Indiana
April 10th in Orlando
April 12th in New York