So the Miami Heat came back after an embarrassing game one defeat, brought the defense and shut down the Bulls. Chicago's atrocious performance on offense and the resurgence of Udonis Haslem decided the game in favor of Miami. What should Chicago do differently to take game three?
One thing the Bulls did well was judiciously use their transition game
They pushed the pace when they had numbers and generally tried to take quality shots when they had transition opportunities. They had a good amount of fast break points in transition where they had numbers.
However, the Bulls need to extend this philosophy some and attempt to get more early offense points.
The Bulls used to play fast on offense slow on defense
Now they're just slow.
When the Bulls didn't have numbers or a clear advantage Derrick Rose walked the ball up the court every possession, frequently doing a little jog to make sure he gets past the half court line in time for the eight second rule. Then he walks it up to the three point line and typically pounds his dribble for a few more seconds.
The Bulls, as a team, aren't even attempting to get into their offensive sets until they've wasted 10-12 seconds of the shot clock. This really has hurt the offensive flow of the team for several reasons.
Where's the passing?
The Bulls didn't move the ball side to side much. They didn't hit guys on basket cuts frequently. We didn't see the interior passing which led to easy hoops around the basket.
Overall, the Bulls offense was far more stagnant. The Bulls ran to many plays that fell into one of these categories:
1: Derrick Rose shoots without passing.
2: Derrick delivers a pass to a guard gets the ball back, resets, and shoots without passing
3: Derrick drives, kicks it out, someone shoots without passing
None of those three play types are bad in and of themselves, but when it's all the team is doing, it's not working the ball around to find a better shot. One of the big culprits was a lack of time to do so.
Why are they slowing down the pace?
A few reasons immediately leap to mind:
1: They want to make sure they don't give Miami transition opportunities with sloppy passing.
2: They want to give Derrick Rose a few seconds on offensive possessions to slow down and get a breather
3: They simply feel they're much better than Miami in the half court
4: They're scared of Miami and want to shorten the game by making it come down to fewer possessions
I doubt number four has much validity to it, but it's one of the prime reasons to slow down a game, so I through it out there. As for the other reasons, I think they have varying amounts of validity.
If the Bulls are scared of the Miami transition game they can still get into their offense quickly without taking bad shots. Just jog the ball up the court and start initiating your offense four seconds sooner to give the team more time to work for a good shot. It doesn't necessitate a fast shot though.
If they want to give Derrick a breather then pull him for C.J. Watson in the third period again. I'd rather have Derrick going really hard for 38 minutes than Derrick playing 44 but taking 6 minutes of breathers on the court by walking the ball up to catch his breath. Rose does look more winded at the end of games when he hasn't had his 3rd quarter rest as well.
If they think they can beat Miami in a slow down half court game, well maybe they can, but giving themselves an extra four or five seconds to run that half court offense will only increase their odds right?
Let's face it, Boozer's the worst front court player in the rotation right now
The vast majority of the baskets he makes are ones that Taj or Noah would also finish easily. The fade away jumpers he makes are at such a low percentage that you'd rather have Noah and Taj simply not take them.
The thought that Boozer helps add space to the floor by providing a threat is no longer accurate. The Heat aren't honoring him as a scorer anymore. Either Boozer needs to punish them by proving them wrong, or the Bulls need to come to the realization that it's not going to happen and limit his minutes.
As such, the Bulls need to see more Noah/Taj and Noah/Omer lineups. Thibodeau has already gotten the message by limiting Boozer's time on the floor, but those limits might need to get even harsher if Boozer can't deliver on offense.
The other three Bulls big men all can defend Wade/James for brief stretches on switches, they all close out well, rotate well, and have great defensive instincts. If Boozer was giving the Bulls the offense they needed then it'd be a tough choice. He hasn't given the Bulls that since prior to his ankle injury a few weeks before the regular season ended though.
It's getting a little late in the game to hope he picks it up now.
I feel good about this series right now. Obviously not as good as when the Bulls were up 1-0 after game one, but better than I expected going into game three. Chicago has shown its defense can handle the Miami Heat offense fairly well. They're taking away enough things from Miami to limit them offensively.
The question since we've crafted our identity as a team was whether or not this team had enough offense. I don't know if they do or not, but the defense has played at a such a high level the offense doesn't need to do that much.
Chicago could have easily won game two. Miami had no chance in game one. In the end, point differential is meaningless in the playoffs, but I really like the way the Bulls are playing overall.
Prior to the series starting I thought the Heat were a 60/40 favorite. I'd put the series at 50/50 right now and maybe shade it slightly in the Bulls favor. I think the Bulls will split the games in Miami, likely winning game three. If it comes down to a three game series where the Bulls have home court, you have to like the Bulls odds.