After freezing the Miami Heat‘s 27-game winning streak Wednesday night, the Chicago Bulls accomplished the feat in which nobody thought they could do except themselves. They may have been playing without two of the most important pieces on their roster in guard Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah, but that didn’t stop Tom Thibodeau‘s squad from pulling off one of the best signature wins in franchise history.
By doing so, the Bulls solidified a few facts that will prove important heading into the playoffs.
First of all, Chicago guaranteed themselves a spot in the NBA Playoffs with the win. Several critics thought that the Bulls were on their way out of the race a couple of weeks ago after an embarrassing blowout loss to the Sacramento Kings. On Wednesday, the same exact team proved otherwise. The Bulls are in, and as we know, anything can happen once a team gets in.
Secondly, and most importantly, it gives Thibodeau’s team all the confidence in the world to win when it matters most. Against all odds, a team full of smaller names without a true superstar were able to take out one of the greatest regular-season franchises in the history of the league. Even without Rose, and tonight Noah, this team isn’t afraid of anybody.
Credit Thibodeau for the success of guys like Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler this season. Robinson came in on a cheap contract thinking he would be playing limited minutes especially when Rose gets back. Instead, Kirk Hinrich suffers through an injury-ridden season and sometimes inconsistent play, and Robinson is enjoying one of the best years of his career.
Butler wasn’t an enormous name coming out of college, but playing under coach Thibodeau and behind an All-Star in Luol Deng, he is turning out to be quite the player. Even though he continues to improve his offensive game night in and night out, his defensive game is what impresses most. He will be a great player in this league for years to come.
With Noah in and out of the lineup lately and no more Omer Asik, Taj Gibson has really stepped up and played well. Oddly enough, he always seems to lift the Bulls’ energy levels the most against the Heat. He didn’t enjoy a luxurious night on the stat sheet on Wednesday, but he played solid defense and hit a couple of clutch shots down the stretch to help his team pull out the win.
Of course, you cannot say enough about Deng and big man Carlos Boozer. Deng has been what keeps this team together on both ends of the court on a daily basis while Boozer has been a much-improved rebounder this year and has led the Bulls offensively many nights. They have both stepped up greatly in the absence of their leader.
The last thing this win does for the Bulls is encourage Rose that he would not be making a return for nothing. Many people, myself included, have doubted this team’s ability to win even with Rose back. This signature win changes everything. By giving these underrated, high energy players the confidence and courage to approach every game as if it was their last, the win proves that Rose would come back to a very good team.
He wouldn’t return to a team with a couple more stars around him. He wouldn’t return to a team built around big names and highlight reel dunks. No, he would return to just a team. That’s it. He would return to his teammates that need him back now more than ever.
His teammates know that there’s still very few who believe in them, but Rose is one of those believers at heart. Not being one to ever count himself or his team out, this win encourages Rose that the time is now or never to make his return.