The Bulls had no problem against a bad New Jersey team Monday night, prevailing 110-95 at the United Center.
Here's what was curious to me: Why did coach Tom Thibodeau play Rip Hamilton 42 minutes and Derrick Rose 36 minutes? I noticed Rose was still on the floor with under two minutes to play and the Bulls leading by 14. What for? Both Hamilton and Rose are coming off injuries, and neither man needs to be playing extended minutes for the Bulls to beat a lightly-regarded foe such as New Jersey.
Rose admitted Monday his sprained toe could be an issue all season. Despite scoring 22 points, he looked hobbled at times after missing the previous four games. Hamilton had perhaps his best game as a Bull, going 10-for-16 from the field for 22 points. He was a willing passer, totaling 10 assists.
If you're the Bulls, you absolutely have to have these guys healthy for the playoffs. You don't need to them to play big minutes to win regular season games in January against crap opponents. What point does that serve? The Bulls have already had a slew of injuries this season, yet they still possess a 16-3 record. That's because the Bulls' bench guys are better than quite a few players who start around the league.
So, let the bench guys play a little more right now and monitor the minutes for Rose and Hamilton carefully. Those guys are essential if the Bulls are to beat the Miami Heat in the playoffs, and we all know that's how this season is going to be judged when all is said and done.