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Game 54: Thunder 92, Bulls 78

1 Apr 2012

Three Stars (leaderboard)
1. Ronnie Brewer: 7 points (.394 TS%), 2 steals, held James Harden to 11 points
2. Kyle Korver: 14 points (.504 TS%), 3 rebounds, 4 assists
3. Taj Gibson: 10 points (.512 TS%), 11 rebounds (4 offensive)

The question, of course, is how much Derrick Rose would have mattered.

Obviously, the Bulls missed the reigning MVP, but was his absence worth 29 points? That was the yawning gap after three quarters when Tom Thibodeau waved the white flag, calling for Jimmy Butler and Brian Scalabrine.

Kevin Durant, a top-two MVP candidate, was just way too much for Luol Deng, a borderline all-star whose wrist injury has helped send his field-goal percentage to a career-low 41 percent.

Russell Westbrook? Freed of a matchup with his good friend Rose, he made C.J. Watson and John Lucas look second-rate once again. (Only five of Lucas’ team-high 19 points came before garbage time.)

The two Thunder superstars combined for 53 points, while Deng and Joakim Noah were stymied all afternoon and Carlos Boozer had one of those games where he was just happy to keep it in first gear and not make any waves.

Would Rose have changed all of that? Well, surely he would have been a big help against Oklahoma City’s underrated defense, and he probably would have made Westbrook work a little harder at the other end as well.

But for everything they’ve achieved in Rose’s absence, the Bulls remain highly inconsistent against their fellow title contenders.

And that doesn’t just mean they win some and lose some; that’s to be expected in any heavyweight battle. More worrisome, the Bulls don’t know what they’ll get from Deng, Noah and Boozer on any given night. They’re great most of the time, but against the very best, it’s hit or miss.

I don’t know if that will change when Rose gets back.

Box Score

Record: 42-12, first in the NBA
Next: Monday 4/2 vs. Houston, 7:00 CT

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