What's the plan for Game 2?

What's the plan for Game 2?

You can look at Chicago's Game 1 in two different ways. One being the Bulls coming through and getting the job done, which they did. Or, them acquired two solid big leads, only to have them both drop back to Earth before closing it out.

The pessimist in me is concerned about that last view, and not due to Chicago's inactivity, because for once that wasn't there, but rather Cleveland's raw talent level. After coming out hot, especially from downtown, the Bulls did everything they could to keep momentum going, but the Cavs were still able to chip away at that lead through, at times, ridiculous shot-making. Now, ridiculous shotmaking is never sustainable, but neither is 55.6% from three, as the Bulls shot. In many ways, Game 1 represented som oddities that are unlikely to present themselves again, meaning you cannot plan around these factors. Sure, if the three is there it'd be ridiculous to not take the shot, but after their hot start, the Bulls tended to seek out the long-ball, which should be a non-starter going into tonight's game.

If anything, tonight will be LeBron James's evening. He'll come out aggressive, score his 11-13 points in the opening quarter, force the defense to collapse on him, and let his shooters secure a near double-digit lead for halftime, after which he'll sporadically score in the third quarter, and then close it off with another 11-13 points in the fourth quarter. That's pretty much how any LeBron James redemption game has gone, and the Bulls need to be aware of this. Monday's strategy of letting Iman Shumpert be the one to beat them was an underrated aspect of Tom Thibodeau's preparation, even if Shumpert did score 22 points. The point was to have shots go through his hands, instead of LeBron's or Kyrie Irving's, and given that Shumpert took 17 shots, it was a point well made. However this will not the be the case tonight, in part due to the aforementioned LeBron take-over, but also due to Irving who is sneaky terrific at playing off LeBron himself. He's the guy the Bulls have to look out for, regardless of LeBron getting his 38-42 points. Shutting down Irving should be at the very top of the blackboard.

(A bonus would be Jimmy Butler once again succeeding in giving LeBron a hard time, and take him by surprise from the very beginning, which would throw Cleveland's entire game plan off.)

Now, offensively it'll be difficult for the Bulls. The odds are against them in having another über effective night, seeing as:

- Derrick Rose looked pretty spent after Game 1.
- They aren't going to shoot 10-for-18 from three again.
- Pau Gasol isn't going to drain mid-range jumpers at the same clip.
- Mike Dunleavy isn't going to score 14 points on six shots again.

Basically, the offense will have to re-create itself tonight, preferably by having the Bulls forcing themselves to the basket. They attempted just 16 free throws in Game 1, with six of those attempts coming in the game's final 21 seconds. The Bulls do themselves no favors by not getting to the line, so this has to change. This means more Pau Gasol post-ups, more off-ball cutting from Jimmy Butler, some gut-check time drives by Rose, and an active Taj Gibson lurking around that baseline, which he's gotten so very, very good at.

The Bulls may very well have acquired home court advantage, but that does little to reject the true notion of this: Tonight is the most important game of the season. There is no way around it. Winning tonight would mean more than momentum. Imagine the United Center crowd if Game 3 tips off with the Bulls leading the series 2-0. Imagine the overwhelming confidence boost that comes in having control of a series in which LeBron James is playing in.

Tonight, without question, is the biggest game of the season and the Bulls's play needs to indicate that.

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  • Totally agree. The Bulls have to capitalize on the absence of J.R. Smith for one more game. James will play out of his mind, but the Bulls have to match up their intensity. They have to win the rebounds, low turnovers and don't allow the Cavs to get any easy shots. This is a tall task, but it is required if the Bulls want to move on to the next series.

  • You already know James and Irving are both gonna have 30 point games, in fact they have To if they plan to win another game in the playoffs without Love. The problem with Cleveland is where do they get the rest of their offense? You can't count on Shumpert or even JR when he gets back to have 20 point games consistently. Even worse they don't have the defense to stop the Bulls. The Cavs defense is worlds apart from the Bucks. The only three defensive weapons they have is Lebron, Shumpert, and Masgov. Masgov may be a factor in the paint but the problem is he's guarding Gasol who has a solid mid range game which pulls him out of the paint. Irving can't guard Rose so they'll try to double team with Shumpert which only leaves Butler room to operate. Apparently Lebron is expected to defend everyone and score all the points. I read that they will try starting Tristan Thompson instead of Mike Miller at the 4 who was horrible by the way. But from what I've seen Thompson is a bad decision maker on defense. Even though the Bulls are the underdogs in this series I think they have the better team. If Cleveland had Kevin Love things would be different but as they stand I think the Cavs are weaker than the Hawks right now.

  • Tonight is a must win for the Bulls. I am interested to see how the Bulls react when the referees screwed them over tonight. Coach Stubborn-ass has to have the balls to take Noah out of the game when Noah is missing layups and turning the ball over. Another bad habits Noah has is floor spacing, he is constantly in the way or demanding the ball trying to be a point center, get your ass in the paint and be big presence with grab 15 rebounds. Coach Stubborn-ass has to give Snell some minutes tonight because the NBA is going to have Butler in foul trouble tonight.

  • In reply to juice44:

    Noah is abysmal offensively but he's one of the best in the game at setting the pick and he's also the best on the team at grabbing offensive rebounds. Those are the kind of things that don't necessarily stand out individually but makes a huge difference on the team.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    I don't think Noah makes a "huge difference," at least not in a positive way. Yeah, he does some nice little things but scoring zero points in 28 minutes is very, very bad. Grabbing offensive rebounds does not offset this. He is also not good defensively and can't really keep up with anyone. Setting picks does not offset this.

    Noah is heart and soul and hustle and all Bulls, all the time, but sadly, he just can't play at a high level right now. I hope to see him put 1-2 good games together this series but I wouldn't count on it.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    Nene has zero field goals in the first two games of the Wizards/Hawks series. He finally made two free throws last night for his first points of the series.

  • In reply to juice44:

    I agree with you about the refs tonight. If I know my NBA they will blow a whistle anytime someone breathes on LeBron tonight. Watch Butler get two quick ones in the first quarter.

  • Tristan Thompson is starting tonight which means Noah and Pau need to be aware of positioning and box out. Amazingly, Jimmy only had one foul in game 1 so I expect him to pick up foul trouble early in Game 2...word to the refs.

    Blatt was the first to blink by first starting Miller then now Thompson. I don't think Thibs will adjust too much, but maybe some situational minutes for Snell / Mirotic. One thing I want him to do is to never play the lineup he trotted out in the beginning of the 4th in Game 1.

    Before the series began I had the Bulls in 6, provided they play with focus and limited their turnovers. IMO, the Bucks defense was a great tune-up for the Bulls offense. This focus in this series is on the defense and how it will withstand the coming onslaught of LeBron and Kyrie. LeBron will need to average 30 or more ppg and 44mpg for the Cavs to win the series, IMO.

  • Looks like the tone is set:

    http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/05/05/bulls-were-unbelievably-stoic-after-game-1-win-over-cavaliers-video/

  • I expect the Cavs to win tonight and if they do, I guess Cavs win the series based on the opinions of Doug and the others who commented.

    In truth, while I do expect the Cavs to win tonight's backs-to-the-wall-must-win game, I think the Bulls can still take the series.

    Maybe a Cavs win will get Thibs to adjust his playoff rotation, playing more of Niko and Snell. Just kidding, he'll never adjust his playoff rotation so let's get ready for more ineffective minutes from his guys Kirk and Jo on our way to losing tonight.

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    In reply to Roman F:

    The Series that is

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    In reply to Roman F:

    umm so Roman which one is it...do the Bulls win or Cavs u sounding pretty wishy washy

  • In reply to Ron Webb:

    I'm saying that the Bulls could lose tonight but still win the series, but that's a minority opinion.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Everybody seems really down on Noah, his offense is embarrassing and non existent, and he may be close to done as a frontline player, but we need someone to battle with Thompson(whose offense is also mostly non existent) on the glass. Who else is even going to try to do it. Not sure that Taj has the physical stature to deal with that guy.

    Even with the decline in Noah's game I have a really hard time putting him in the same basket with the Hangdog. Despite not scoring a point, Noah was still plus 13 in game one, while Taj was minus 13 despite scoring 8 points in about the same number of minutes. As usual, both of their plus/minus numbers were hurt by getting all the minutes of the Brooks/Hangdog backcourt.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Interesting tidbit about Lebron from CSN.

    James has averaged 20.5 points while shooting 42 percent from the field in four career Game 1's against the Bulls. But in three Game 2's, he's averaged 29.3 points, shooting 62.5 percent.

    Also, he did grab 15 rebounds(5 more than anybody on either team) with 9 assists, albeit those were offset by 6 turnovers, so he didn't exactly suck even if he was just feeling out the series as he usually does in game 1.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Noah and Hangdog are in the same basket in that Thibs plays both of them too many minutes because they're his guys. Also, both know the right play to make most of the time but are increasingly physically unable to do it. That's how bad Noah looks a lot of nights, though he has other nights where he looks good, and even when he's bad he's 7-feet so he'll still pull some boards down. But no way he should be playing over Niko, who as I mentioned elsewhere, is no slouch as a rebounder. I know Niko's rebounds-per-minute went down by the end of the year but he has been one of the Bulls' best rebounders at times. Hangdog gives you nothing on his good nights and worse than nothing on his bad nights and he's taking minutes from Snell, who isn't Niko but can contribute, certainly far more than Hangdog.

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    I think Thibs needs to counter with putting Mirotic in the starting line up to counter the Thompson move. Force to Thompson to have to guard the perimeter and take him out of the paint or force them to make Lebron play Mirotic which helps Butler and Rose. Lebron will be supper aggressive tonight. Have to weather the storm. Lebron will get his. Let him expend energy on offensive and defense. You guys are right--we have to control Kyrie and we need to attack, attack, attack the rim and force the refs to put us on the line and put their bigs in foul trouble. I don't expect Dunleavy or Rose will have a great shooting night if history serves. That is why we need to give Mirotic some tick and give the Cavs a different look--force them to react. This is a must win game for both teams. It would be difficult for the CAVS to win 4 out 5 with this Bulls team. GO BULLS!!!

  • In reply to Marketus Presswood:

    There's no way Thibs starts Niko. However, with Thompson starting the Cavs bench is that much worse so hopfully Niko and company come in and take care of business. We need a big edge off the bench tonight knowing LeBron is going to be aggressive as hell.

  • In reply to Marketus Presswood:

    Unless Niko hits a 3 everytrip down we get killed in that matchup with Thompson rebounding every Cav's missed shot. Noah is really the Bulls only answer to Thompson, even Thibs mentioned that.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I don't know, Niko's an excellent rebounder, Noah might grab 2-3 more rebounds but Niko would give you 10-12 more points.

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    Back in the 90's when the Bulls team led by Michael Jordan was the Mt Everest and the rest of the league was molehills, I noticed how much the networks would influence the outcome of the Bulls games. Back then it was great to see the other team get called on all of the touchy fouls, and the Bulls get away with assault & battery. As long as they won it was okay, and when the Bulls lost, the next game was sure to tip in the Bulls favor regardless on how hard the other team played.

    Fast forward to tonight's game, and after listening to the Networks basically ignore the Bulls win, but focus on LeBron and the Cavs losing, I get the same feeling the Bulls are in for a long frustrating night of foul trouble and technicals calls. Tonight's game is a mental test for the team to see just how focused they really are at winning this series. The networks want the Cavs to win this game, and I can see the refs blowing a quick whistle to keep LeBron, Kyrie, and the Cavs frontline on the Freethrow line.

    As much as I'd like to see the Bulls win game 2, they have to have huge contributions from their bench players and a solid mindset and I don't see it happening thanks to the refs.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    I agree with everything you say, this game is going to come down to mental toughness and coaching. The Bulls will have to keep their composure when they get screwed by the refs, Coach Stubborn-Ass has to trust Brooks, Mirotic and Snell.It's imperative that you make LeBron & Irving play defense and not take offensive possessions off.

  • In reply to juice44:

    Agreed, the Bulls bench play will be a huge factor tonight. And I dont want to see Hinrich in there dammit....

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    That's not really how I remember it, the Knicks, the Pacers and before them the 80's Pistons regularly assaulted the Bulls because they weren't as athletically gifted as we were and thought that the Bulls were a finesse team, dare I say soft. Heck, even the Jazz looked to beat the Bulls up.

    Lets face it, its a stars league and the superstars get the calls, or at least the benefit of the doubt, which should give the Cav's some advantage in this series.

  • i would love to see the bulls push the pace and get lebron and kyrie gassed. lebron needs to play both ends tonight in order to win, and has a ton of pressure on his shoulders. despite what everyone thinks, i could see him crumble under pressure if his shot is not falling early and the bulls are moving the ball and hitting shots. Noah is getting minutes because he can keep thompson off the boards and help pack the paint to keep lebron and kyrie out of it. force those guys to shoot jumpers all night and push the ball at every chance. the bulls are deeper and the cavs are under pressure to survive

  • Perhaps, at halftime, Thibs might point out that #4 guy to Dunleavy and remind him that that is his man, assuming that he forgot to mention it before the game. This just pisses me off even more that they got him as a bonus for "taking" JR Smith off the Knicks hands. What an F-upped deal that was, thanks for nothing Phil. Nevermind Tony Allen(whom we woulda, coulda, shoulda had 5 years ago instead of Ronnie Brewer) putting the brakes(if not he clamps) on the MVP, Stephen Curry last night.

  • Hard to believe, with Noah out of the game, Thompson is kicking the SOL's ass all over the court as the Cav's are getting second chance opps on every possession. Also, while I'm at it, I've been told that a guy who averages 1.9 bpg is by definition a big time rim protector not a rim spectator or escort ala Carlos Boozer. Lets ask Lebron what he thinks, rim protector or rim spectatot, although I doubt that he knows as much about basketball as some of the statistical experts that post here.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Oh shit, another typo, I guess that invalidates any point that I might have made, that's what the stats say anyway.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    and while I'm at it, Rose needs to knock off the nonchalant moron act, those fouls on Irving at the 3 pt line were both pathetic excuses for fouls, who does he think he is the hangdog.

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