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updated: 4/30/2012 10:53 PM

Bulls plan to give it their best shot

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  • Bulls guard C.J. Watson will play a much bigger role now with Derrick Rose out for the rest of the season.

      Bulls guard C.J. Watson will play a much bigger role now with Derrick Rose out for the rest of the season.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

Just in case anyone was searching for a storyline heading into Game 2 of the Bulls-76ers series, Kyle Korver made this suggestion.

"I don't know one good sports movie where the 1 seed just cruised to the championship," he said after Monday's practice at the Berto Center.

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"We've got a good story here. It's going to be a little bit harder and we're going to have to pull together a little bit tighter and we've got to play a little bit better. But we can."

The Bulls will have to finish their playoff run without three-time all-star Derrick Rose, who tore the ACL in his left knee in the final minutes of Game 1.

So far, they've conceded nothing. The Bulls did go 18-9 during the regular season when Rose was injured, which would have been the fourth-best record in the NBA based on winning percentage.

A round-table of NBA experts on ABC scoffed at that record over the weekend. Backups such as C.J. Watson and John Lucas III might catch opponents by surprise in the regular season, they argued, but the playoffs are a different story.

Do they have a point?

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau countered that every player faces tougher circumstances in the playoffs, simply because they're facing the same team multiple times.

"You obviously become much more familiar," Thibodeau said. "You know what the counters are. You know what the primary go-to plays are. You know what they're trying to get to. Your role guys, your starters, your primary scorers -- that (goes for) everybody.

"Then it becomes how well can you execute and how hard can we make it on their primary scorers? That's the challenge we all face."

While going 18-9 without Rose, the Bulls pulled off 7 victories over playoff teams, including an 89-80 win over Philadelphia on March 17. Looking at the box scores from those games, a few things are obvious:

•Bulls success won't rest with Watson, Lucas or any single player.

In those 7 victories against playoff qualifiers, the Bulls had five different leading scorers. More often than not, it was Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah who stepped up his scoring.

•Passing the boards is vital. In every one of those wins, the Bulls won the rebounding battle, by anywhere from 8 to 18. The Bulls had 10 offensive rebounds and 20 second-chance points in Game 1 of this first-round series.

•Even without their superstar on the floor, ball movement should create open shots. The Bulls usually shot the ball well from 3-point range in those games without Rose, although their assists totals were both high and low.

•Defense matters most. The Bulls would seem to be at a disadvantage defensively at the guard spot, since neither Watson nor Lucas can match Rose's physical gifts. But in 6 of those 7 victories over playoff teams, the Bulls held the opposition to fewer than 90 points.

Another factor is during most of those Rose-less games, Richard Hamilton also was out. He played well Saturday, scoring 19 points while taking just 7 shots. Hamilton did that by going 6-for-7 from the field, with a 3-pointer, and tacked on 6 free throws.

So in theory, the Bulls already are one step ahead of their regular-season short-handed lineup.

"Everyone's job is not going to change now," Thibodeau said. "They still have to do the exact same thing. They just have to do it better."

Korver pointed out that the players have heard Thibodeau's "we have more than enough to win with" line as often as the media.

"You hear something enough and it sticks with you," he said. "We have a lot of faith in C.J. and John Lucas and ourselves.

"If we win this, we're going to win because we played the best team basketball. Our goal was to win a championship, and it still is.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com.

•Get the latest Bulls news via Twitter by following McGrawDHBulls.

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