Derrick Rose‘s gruesome injury changes the outlook of the entire playoffs, the best player on a contending team going down with a season-ending injury just as the playoffs begin. It’s the second one in the Eastern Conference, following Dwight Howard‘s exit a little while back.
Of course, the Sixers-Bulls series changes with news of Rose’s demise. Does this mean the Sixers have a chance?
To analyze, let’s look at the Bulls with and without their star, to see what changes for Chicago:
- In the 27 regular season games Rose missed, the Bulls went 18-9. Here are the teams they beat in that stretch: Charlotte (3 times), Cleveland (2 times), Washington, Phoenix, Sacramento, Boston (2 times), Miami, Toronto (2 times), Orlando, Atlanta, Detroit, New York, and the Sixers. In other words, they mostly took care of business against bad teams and were able to steal some games from good teams. The record is mostly not a fluke – the point differential without Rose is mostly due to romps of 30+ against Charlotte twice and Cleveland.
- According to BoopStats, the Bulls’ defense improved upon Rose’s injury, giving up nearly three fewer points per game. Rose isn’t considered to be a good defensive player, but neither are his backups – Jrue Holiday scored 30 points on C.J. Watson and John Lucas III earlier this year when Rose sat out. But the rest of the team was shut down, mainly due to Holiday taking 27 shots for those 30 points. The Bulls still won that game because the rest of our roster provided little.
- Also according to BoopStats (which was really helpful to me because I had planned to look for the numbers myself), the Bulls scoring dropped by more than 4 per game while Rose sat out. The difference was offset somewhat by the improved opponent’s scoring.
What I gather is that the Bulls likely played at a slower pace without Rose in the lineup. Derrick is dynamic in the open court, as we saw at times, which makes me think that the Bulls slowed the game down even more than usual once Rose left the lineup. Chicago played at one of the slowest paces in the league, which if slowed even further would reduce points per game and opponents point naturally, since there’s fewer possessions for each team.
Evidence shows they did slow their pace down when Rose was injured. There’s some math coming up so be warned: if you don’t understand and want me to explain better, please let me know. According to HoopData, the Bulls played at a below average pace, averaging 91.6 possessions per game (the league average is 93.5). A team has possession when they have the ball in their hands; offensive rebounds do not change possession, while defensive rebounds and turnovers do. It’s fairly simple. When Rose did not play, the Bulls played at a slower pace, averaging 90.6 possessions per game. The 91.6 rating overall includes the games without Rose, so in order to adjust for that, I then did some math, considering Rose missed 27 games and played in 39. In all, the Bulls averaged 92.3 possessions with Rose and 90.6 without him.
I also calculated their defensive efficiency without Rose to see whether or not they actually improved. The difference was an improvement over the season average of roughly 0.5 points per 100 possessions, or of less than a point per game when compared to when Rose is there. Their offense suffered, however, and it wasn’t all pace related. They salvaged some of it with better offensive rebounding, but that’s mostly due to an increased number of misses.
Here’s my math, in a Google Doc if you click on the link. The pace and defensive efficiency numbers are there, by game.
The reasons could be many, it could be intentional or unintentional, but there was a difference with and without Rose. It makes it even more important that the Sixers try speed up their game and create more fast break opportunities – because the Bulls will slow them into submission otherwise. The Bulls are a worse team without Derrick. But they are still a top team in the East when Derrick Rose isn’t around. To summarize: expect some slow, drawn out, maybe even hard to watch games for the remainder of the Bulls season. And it won’t get too much easier for us.