ORLANDO, Fla. — The hardest part of Derrick Rose’s night had little to do with coming back from injury or his 1-for-6 shooting from three-point range.
It was sitting on the bench in that fourth quarter and watching a lead slip away in another heartbreaking loss.
And in falling 105-103 to the Orlando Magic thanks to Victor Oladipo’s layup with 1.5 seconds left, there was some serious collateral damage Wednesday night. The Bulls (46-32) slipped to the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and are on a collision course with the Washington Wizards instead of the inexperienced Milwaukee Bucks.
“Very hard, very hard, but at the same time, it’s all about patience,’’ Rose said when asked about sitting the fourth quarter because of his 20-minute limit. “I know that I’m going to have my time. Right now, while I’m not playing, I’m trying to learn a little bit more, see what’s open and see how they’re playing everybody. The only thing I can do is sit back, watch and learn.’’
Rose learned what coach Tom Thibodeau has been preaching all season: The injuries and minutes restrictions have resulted in a lack of continuity, and it’s showing up at the worst possible time.
“It’s troubling,’’ Pau Gasol said. “There’s no question. It’s upsetting. There’s a time where you have to be sharp. You can’t have these type of games. We’re trying to figure out a lot of things right now with guys coming back and different rotations and guys sharing minutes. That’s what happens when you have a deep team. But we have to figure it out quickly.
“Continuity has been tough, for sure. At times, we look like we’re a little bit all over the place.’’
The loss also allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to clinch the division, as well as the No. 2 seed, while the Bulls watched their record drop to 15-5 in games in which they’ve played with their projected starting lineup.
With four games left, it’s almost like cramming for an exam, and the focus will remain on Rose. He had been out since Feb. 27 and had been taking contact in practice for just over a week.
Rose actually started well, shooting 2-for-4 from the field for five points and getting a rebound and a steal in the first quarter. The Bulls built a 15-point lead in the second quarter, but then started to exhale.
Not a good idea, especially against a Magic team that has given them problems in Orlando for two seasons.
“[Rose’s] first quarter was very good,’’ Thibodeau said. “He got a little winded, which is to be expected, but it gives us a baseline, and we go from there.’’
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Rose was on the bench, and the Bulls were just trading baskets with the Magic the last few minutes. They ran out of trades after Oladipo beat Jimmy Butler to the rim.
“The challenge right now is, how quickly can we adapt?’’ Thibodeau said. “Trying to build some continuity, some rhythm, and guys also have to play well. You can’t just go out there and not play well.’’
As for Rose, with a game in Miami on Thursday, he will evaluate how he feels in the morning and make the decision to play or not.
“That’s the plan,’’ Rose said of playing in the back-to-back. “I know that I feel good.’’