The theory that the Bulls are better without Derrick Rose is gaining momentum as

circumstantial evidence

accumulates. It's absurd, of course.

When the Bulls have been at their best, Rose has been at the top of his game. What's important now is that he and his teammates return to that level before the playoffs begin.

It's all about peaking for the Bulls now that they are all but assured of home-court advantage through the Eastern Conference finals. Coach Tom Thibodeau's list of priorities became clear as fans streamed out of the United Center after the Bulls' 96-86 overtime victory Thursday against the Heat. A schedule that has been an enemy all season now becomes an ally.

The Bulls' next three opponents have an average winning percentage of .248. The Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats provide ample opportunity for the Bulls to accomplish two objectives that will assure they will be healthy, rested and playing at a high level when the postseason begins.

The first is obvious: Rose needs to get his timing back and his legs under him. I had a hunch heading into the game against the Heat that Rose was going to do something he never had done before. The last time he had played — Sunday against the New York Knicks — he committed eight turnovers and missed two clutch free throws that cost the Bulls a victory. He wanted to play in the rematch Tuesday against the Knicks, but the decision was made for him.

I expected a memorable performance against the Heat, but I wouldn't have guessed he would be held to a career-low two points and find himself on the bench during overtime.

It never has been more obvious that Rose is out of sync. His shots aren't falling, and he's playing tentatively, which might be the result of not having his usual extraordinary lift because of groin and ankle injuries. He needs time to round himself into shape and create synergy with his teammates. The next three games provide ample opportunity for him to do so.