To this point in the season, the Bulls should be treating every game like a playoff game. After all, there's only 13 left before the playoffs, and there's no guarantee the Bulls even make it that far. Tonight's matchup against the Utah Jazz was an important one as both teams are vying for a chance at postseason play. The Bulls, playing without Pau Gasol and E'Twaun Moore, found a way to secure a 92-85 victory.
Gasol's absence enabled Cristiano Felicio to net the first start of his career. Felicio, a quirky big with deft offensive ability, looked pretty serviceable. The loss of Moore, however, will probably plague the team in the near future. Luckily, it didn't on this night as Derrick Rose played great and Aaron Brooks didn't completely ruin things like he normally does. It's just hard to foresee a scenario where Fred Hoiberg upping Rose and Jimmy Butler's minutes in preparation of a playoff push ends well.
As we know, Rose is pretty much on a game-to-game basis in regards to his health. In my opinion, I don't think the guy's body is capable of playing more than 30 minutes a night anymore. It's a tricky situation for Hoiberg because while the Bulls are indeed fighting for their playoff lives, they're basically playing for the No. 7 seed in hopes of facing the Tortrasho Trashtors.
Obviously the Bulls need Rose and Butler to play well and play often. But could you imagine a world where Rose and Butler play, like, 38 minutes a game over these last 13 games, only to wind up getting Cleveland anyway because this team isn't good enough to take control of their own destiny? I certainly could.
At any rate, this team is living in a day-to-day reality. They took care of their business tonight, and that's what matters for now. And actually, the Bulls played legitimately well. They led basically throughout the game; out-shot and out-rebounded the Jazz, too. As mentioned, Rose played great scoring 22 points on 10-15 shooting including 2-2 from 3-point range. Taj Gibson, unquestionably, deserved the game ball, though.
Gibson continues to be a beacon of reliability on a team filled with question marks. He's more than likely playing through a hamstring injury, too. Nonetheless, he finished with 15 points (7-9 shooting) with 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals.
Perhaps the most surprising thing of all was the Bulls holding an opponent under 100 points. The Bulls basically never do that anymore, which is both pathetic and difficult to do. But if I had to reach a sweeping conclusion, I'd say that the Jazz scoring only 85 points is more indicative of the Jazz offense than it is the Bulls defense.
Looking ahead, the Bulls get the easiest remaining part of their schedule. They play Sacramento at home on Monday, then they get a back-to-back with the Knicks and follow that up with Orlando on the road. Realistically, the Bulls need to win these next four games if they plan on creating any separation from the Pistons. And perhaps more importantly, winning these next four games might put them in the No. 7 seed as they are only a game back of Indiana.
Hopefully, the Bulls can step up and beat the teams they're supposed to beat. It's all we can reasonably ask.