Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls lose that go-to guy who can penetrate at will, hit crazy shots no matter what defense you throw at him, get a whistle to stop a scoring drought and carry the offense to a win when nothing else is working. Superstars can win games by themselves in the playoffs, and the Bulls are decidedly without one now. C.J. Watson isn't that type of player, not at all. What he is, however, is another cog with a specific purpose on the offensive end, and he fills his role very, very well.
Watson is a great shooter from distance, and a guy who will kill you if you lose track of him or try to go under the pick-and-roll. He's not nearly the threat Rose is, but he'll beat you in a specific way, if you let him. If you think about the play that killed the Sixers the other night, Watson is a bigger threat to hurt you in that set than Rose was. If Turner cheats off him to try to stop Hamilton or Korver from getting that 15-foot look, he'll be leaving a 40% three-point shooter open, rather than Rose, who shoots it at 31%.
With Watson on the floor, the Bulls have a ton of shooting out there with pretty much all of their lineups. Basically, this is how it breaks down for me. Rose provides them with an offensive weapon you simply cannot scheme against. A guy who can break you down and beat you even if you do everything right. With Watson in his place, there isn't a whole lot of unexpected or unstoppable things they can do on the offensive end. They need to run their sets, they need to spread the ball around and it isn't going to be easy for them to get bailed out late in the shot clock. With Watson, their standard sets might be more dangerous than with Rose, and if you allow them to do what they want, schematically, they're going to score efficiently. But if you can disrupt what they want to do, even if you have to take some chances to do it, then you have a shot to shut them down.
All signs point to a Jrue, Turner and Iguodala in the starting lineup, with Jrue taking Rip Hamilton, Iguodala taking Deng and Turner taking Watson. Those are all solid matchups for the Sixers on the defensive end. Rip has a few inches on Jrue, but he won't be able to use them in the post. Jrue is also the best suited to follow Rip around off those screens and deny him the ball. Watson isn't lightning-quick. Turner should be able to keep him in front and his length could help disrupt both Watson's jumpers and his ability to make passes to initiate the offense. Iguodala should be fine on Deng. The added benefit of this setup is if the Sixers can push the ball, the Bulls will be stuck with a mismatch in Watson on Turner, and that's a matchup the Sixers need to look to attack. Give Turner a size mismatch and he can go to work, possibly even punish the Bulls. Hopefully, having those three on the floor for major minutes will also help on the defensive glass.
Watson isn't the only change we're going to see. When Watson goes to the bench, Thibodeau is going to have to call upon John Lucas to play the point. Where Watson is a complete departure from Rose's style, Lucas is kind of a really poor-man's version. He's a low-percentage gunner who dominates the ball, but is capable of getting hot enough to carry the team for stretches. Lucas has an absurd usage rate of 26%, basically when he's in there they try to shoehorn him into Rose's role in the offense. A solid defender should be able to take away his scoring, though. The important thing for the Sixers is to really attack Lucas on the defensive end. He's undersized and unless Lou is in the game, the Bulls really won't be able to hide him. Look for Jrue and/or Turner to take him down to the post if they even find him covering them.
The rest of the keys remain the same. Priority number one is keeping their bigs off the offensive glass. Priority number two is finishing your shots around the rim. In game one, they left so many points on the table by missing uncontested layups, or going up weak.
This series just became two similar, star-less teams doing battle without anyone to get the superstar calls. Both teams will try to win the game with their defense. It's a level playing field, go out there, execute. Be ready for the emotion the Bulls will bring into the game. Try to take the crowd out of it early. Head back to Philly even and you're way ahead.
The tip is at 8pm. Game thread will land around 6.