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Bulls toy with playing Derrick Rose, C.J. Watson together more

C.J. Watsmight be able give Bulls another consistent scoring threat. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

C.J. Watson might be able to give the Bulls another consistent scoring threat. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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TONIGHT

BULLS AT MAGIC

The facts: 7, CSN, TNT, 1000-AM.

Updated: April 20, 2012 8:14AM



The roster is essentially the same. Rip Hamilton was the only major addition, but he has been out for most of the season with assorted ­injuries.

So how are these Bulls different from the team that fell to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals last season? With Hamilton healthy, or even if he’s not, where will the points come from that will prevent Derrick Rose from having to shoulder the scoring load as he did last year?

One possible answer scored 20 points in Saturday night’s victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at the United Center despite dragging around a bum ankle.

The Bulls have three point guards who can flat-out score. C.J. Watson was playing in the same backcourt as Rose more often before Rose injured his groin. Whether it’s Watson playing the point, allowing Rose to move off the ball, or Rose penetrating and kicking the ball back to Watson, playing both point guards at once might be the best way to provide Rose with more scoring punch.

The same goes for John Lucas III, who also has proved he is capable of making big shots from anywhere on the floor.

“Different combinations getting playing time together is good,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said when asked if there’s any benefit to Rose missing games. “Oftentimes, particularly in the playoffs, you’re faced with different matchups. We were getting to use Derrick and C.J. more together but it hasn’t worked out like we hoped.”

Luol Deng might not be able to be the scoring threat he was before tearing a ligament in his left wrist. The injury affects his ability to handle the ball with his left hand and slash to the basket, meaning the Bulls might need more offensive help even if Hamilton returns and makes the desired impact in the playoffs.

Deng still does plenty to help the Bulls, but he might have trouble producing the 17-plus points he has averaged the last two seasons.

“We’re definitely missing Derrick,” Deng said. “He’s the key to the team. We’re finding ways to win, though. We’re making adjustments. It’s just different when he’s not playing. We just have to find ways to win the game.”

Watson and Rose didn’t play in the same backcourt much last year, but Thibodeau has been tinkering with the idea more and more when both are healthy. How much they both might play together depends on the situation and the matchups, of course. But having their speed and shot-making ability on the floor at the same time could create matchup problems for opponents.

Watson has been the team’s best three-point shooter. His .429 percentage from behind the arc is tied for 12th in the NBA.

He took only 19 shots in five playoff games against the Heat last season and made one three-pointer in four attempts. As a team, the Bulls made just 31.3 percent.

“When Derrick is on the court, the game is different,” center Joakim Noah said. “There’s always a lot of pressure and emphasis on trying to stop him. We get a lot of open looks off Derrick getting double-teamed. We don’t have a lot of players who get blitzed or double-teamed like that.”



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