The Philadelphia 76ers had little reason to be happy for the first 47 minutes of the NBA playoffs. Sixers fans like myself had brief hopes that they could scare the Chicago Bulls better than they could the Miami Heat, yet their 103-91 defeat in Game 1 on April 28 deflated those hopes.
But then the latest and worst Derrick Rose injury yet happened with a minute left, leading to a ton of obituaries for the Bulls. Yet unfortunately for the Sixers, their demise is still expected to come later.
The Rose injury ended his season with a torn ACL, and immediately made Chicago a heavy underdog to win the NBA title and the Eastern Conference. What's more, the Bulls may even be an underdog to the Boston Celtics or Atlanta Hawks if they reach the next round. Yet it seems that everyone else in the East has higher hopes after Rose went down, except for the Sixers themselves.
The injury may have killed the Bulls' title hopes, but not their chances to at least survive the Sixers. Before the final awful minute, Philadelphia was the decisive loser of Game 1, as it looked overmatched against the entire Chicago team. Except for one brief spurt in the second quarter where the Sixers tied the game, the Bulls had a comfortable lead all day and usually had a big run or two whenever things got a little tight.
The only good thing Philadelphia did was close a late 20 point Chicago lead to 12, which is how coach Tom Thibodeau justified keeping Rose and the starters in for so long. But will that late run be the first domino that falls towards an unlikely Sixers comeback, or do the Bulls still have too much without Rose - at least for now?
The best hope for Philadelphia is that the psychological toll on Chicago takes an immediate impact. The Bulls did go 18-9 without Rose this year and easily rallied to beat the Sixers without him on Mar. 17. Yet they could probably feel more confident then because they knew Rose would be back for the postseason, when things really counted. However, the Bulls now know for sure that Rose will never come back to save them this year - and that could make it harder to keep the faith.
But the general consensus is that this will kill their postseason later, when they face a tougher team like the Celtics or Heat. Yet this current Sixers team hardly showed in Game 1 that they can take advantage of a gift like this. If the Philadelphia squad that showed up in the season's first 29 games was around, however, it would be a different story.
The Rose injury is rotten timing for both the Bulls and Sixers. For Chicago, it may have killed its title chances just as the playoffs started. But unless Philadelphia finds something left in the tank, it might have happened a bit too late for the Sixers to kill off the Bulls themselves.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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