The Chicago Bulls found ways to win last season even without star point guard Derrick Rose, who missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in the opening game of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. The Bulls finished the regular season eight games over .500 at 45-37 and managed to secure the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Overall, the Bulls were able to hold their own without Rose, but there was one key piece missing from Chicago last season — someone who could close out a game. Nate Robinson, Luol Deng and Marco Belinelli each proved to be viable scoring options at times, but for the most part, each of them lacked the ability to take over a game.
With the exception of Robinson’s brilliant performance in Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs in which he scored 34 points, the Bulls had nobody who could give them a scoring boost at the end of a game when they needed it most.
Now that Rose is back, the Bulls finally have their closer, someone who can take over a game late in the fourth quarter and put the team on their back. This is exactly what Rose did Wednesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Rose finished Wednesday’s game with 26 points, 13 of which came in the final quarter. He gave the Bulls the scoring lift that they needed late in the game, which propelled them to victory. This is an aspect of Chicago’s offense that they desperately needed last season.
With Rose back to his dominant self on offense, the Bulls have been unstoppable this preseason. They have yet to lose a game and have had big wins over their divisional foe Indiana Pacers (twice), as well as most recently beating Western Conference powerhouse Oklahoma City.
The scary thing is that the Bulls have yet to play a game with their projected starting lineup. Due to injuries, Rose, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler have each missed some preseason action. Yet, due to strong bench play, the Bulls still find themselves at a perfect 7-0.
I have been saying it since the end of last season, but if the Bulls can stay healthy this season, the sky is the limit for them. They seem to be clicking on all cylinders this postseason, and as soon as they get Noah back, they will be an even scarier matchup for their opposition. I expect Chicago to keep their hot streak going this preseason against Denver Nuggets on Friday night.
Jon Keller is a writer for rantsports.com. Follow him on twitter @jkell2005