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Hollinger: Rose-less Bulls are quite formidable

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John Holllinger, longtime target of the pro-ignorance crowd, saw the Bulls in his home base of Atlanta and came away quite impressed:

While Rose rehabs a groin injury, the supporting cast bashed the Atlanta Hawks 98-77 with a combination of precision offensive execution and determined, maniacal defense.

Chicago is now 12-5 in the 17 games Rose has missed, and while the Bulls have had a few stinkers in his absence, including double-digit home loses to Denver and Portland, they also beat Miami, held Orlando to 59 points and just handed Atlanta its worst defeat of the season (well, tied for it) in the Hawks' own building ... exacting payback for what was arguably Chicago's own worst game this season, a 109-94 defeat here in January.

Don't get me wrong; they're clearly better off with Rose than without him. A record of 12-5 is nice and all, but they're a dominating 29-6 when Rose plays. Chicago defends about as well with or without him, as it showed again Wednesday, but against tough defenses the Bulls miss him on the offensive end. Offensively, they've averaged 6.5 points per 100 possessions more with Rose on the court, according to NBA.com's advanced stats tool. That deficiency wasn't visible Wednesday night with the 3s falling, but it has been in several games.

Which brings us to the more salient point: If the Bulls are this good without Rose, imagine how they'll be once he returns. Wednesday's tour de force lends further support to the growing impression that Chicago, not Miami, is the team to beat in this season's playoffs.

He even suggests that the Bulls could contend for a title without Rose, though doesn't seem to have his heart into that notion.