The 92-89 score of the Bulls beating on the Heat actually makes the Bulls defense look worse than it was.
In their first meeting, LeBron James and Joakim Noah were out with injuries. Thursday, the Bulls (39-17) were at full strength and the Big Three were dressed for the Heat (42-16). And the Heat got beat at the United Center again -- worse than the first time.
The scoreboard showing a 93-89 score doesn't do the Bulls defense credit when you factor their biggest defensive issues were just sloppy ball handling on offense. Consider these points:
- After taking a 53-44 lead into halftime, the Heat could only score 14 in the third quarter -- 10 by Dwyane Wade and four by LeBron.
- The Heat scored 34 fastbreak points. That's only 55 points allowed by Bulls in the halfcourt. The Heat had 20 fastbreak points in a first half where they scored 53, 14 in the second half where they only score 36. The fact is that you're not stopping LeBron and D-Wade in transition; you're just not. But this is stifling halfcourt defense.
- The Heat have the third-most efficient offense in the league and were held to a 93.7 Offensive Rating -- 15 points under their 108.7 rating on the season -- as it was a 95-possession game.
- The Heat only shot 40.6% from the floor on the game. Other than the first quarter where they shot 59% to score 31, largely thanks to fastbreak points off of the Bulls' four turnovers, Miami never shot better than 37% or scored more than 22 in a quarter.
- Every Heat player whose first names don't rhyme with ShaKahn or Booain combined for 26 points.
- Miami's leading bench scorer, by far, was Eddie House -- with two points.
- Despite bricking 47-of-79 shots, the Heat could only muster up six offensive rebounds, for an embarrassing 13% Offensive Rebounding Rate. The lowest ORR in the league is 21.5%.
- LeBron got his, but he was forced to get it on the floor, as the Bulls kept him away from the FT line. He could only get to the line to shoot 5-for-6. Queue: LeSadness.
The fastbreak was the only efficient offense for the Heat and the Bulls gave Miami a high quantity of opportunities to exploit 14 turnovers and bricking 48-of-82 shots. When the Bulls tightened the handling, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng took over the game with some big boy basketball, scoring 12 and 10 respectively in the Bulls' 27-point third quarter to take their first lead of the game since the early three minutes of the game.
The Bulls won this game with physicality and aggressiveness to dominate the glass and force the ball inside. There was also Chris Bosh shooting 1-for-18 from the floor seven points. Queue: LeSadness.
The game was on TNT, so Stacey King had to give him commentary to the Twitterverse. And he did:
We'd like to thank Chris Bosh for donating all those bricks tonight in helping us build more beautiful buildings in Chicago. Thanks Mr. Bosh
And don't discount the dramatic heroics of Rose and Deng to ice the game:
- It's still a big man's game. This was a physical game. Rose and Deng took this game over with powering to the basket and when they missed, bigs cleaned up the mess. Despite those 34 fastbreak points, the Heat only scored 40 total points in the paint. The Bulls scored 44 thanks to that aggressiveness, but pounding the offensive glass for 13 offensive rebounds created 15 second-chance points.
- Bulls dominated the glass. I hit this point earlier, but here are the total numbers: 53-39 Bulls. Get in the weight room, Miami. To their credit, it's the NBA-leading 43rd time this season the Bulls have out-rebounded their opponents.
- Rose's shooting inefficiency is deceptive. 24 shots is pretty insane, but they produced 26 points. Nine shots were at the rim, two were within 10 feet, and he got to the FT line to shoot 7-for-8. He was only 4-for-9 at the rim because he got mugged four or five times and sometimes the whistles don't go your way. More correct whistles and the box score easily reads 29-to-33 points on 19-to-22 shots. His drives weren't so much with scoring as the only option. Miami's was rebounding so terribly that Rose was just moving the ball for the Bulls to beat the Heat above the rim.
His three wasn't falling, as he bricked 4-of-5, but the pull-up jumper did, hitting 4-of-6 long twos. The Heat gave him plenty of space, contracting to the paint when Rose had the ball. His four turnovers were silly. Only six assists, but the Heat space very well on defense.
- Deng's defense was incredibly strong and he was unstoppable in the second half. OK, only two points on 1-for-4 shooting in the first half. But whatever kick in the ass he got at halftime worked, as he finished the game with 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with ten rebounds.
Even taking away some total scoring, I loved Deng's game all night because of his defense. LeBron scoring 29 is just LeBron being awesome. LeBron hit tough shots, handled the ball extremely well, and when he's running the floor, no one in the NBA can stop him. But in the halfcourt, Deng applied the pressure the Bulls needed him to do without committing silly fouls.
- Omer Asik, hero. This game was won with defense and rebounding. Noah had stamina issues in the second half and Omer was called upon for 21 minutes and he owned the glass. His game-high 11 rebounds were at a dominant 27.3% rate. I don't believe in "statement games" and other trite clichés like it, but Omer was a representation of Tom Thibideau publicizing his philosophy of big boy basketball and that the Heat can't stop it.
- Carlos Boozer, easy button. Offensively, the first half was a disaster for the Bulls, mostly with the turnovers. But in the first half, Boozer scored 14 on 6-for-10 shooting. That value is high when you consider the Bulls struggled to accumulate 44 points in that time. He finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. He turned the ball over three times, got stuffed three times, but his reliability with the ball is of a value that can't be ignored. Yeah, Rose and Deng combined for 46, but with Boozer, they combined for 62. This is good.
Not to mention, his defense wasn't a problem because no one in their right mind voluntarily gives the ball to Erick Dampier or Joel Anthony. He hedged and showed, but because of the Heat's problems with bigs, I would've liked to see Booz commit more help, just for spacing.
- When Booz was on Bosh, he called for help immediately, and the team defense responded. Thibs has this unit working extremely well with communicating to rotate their spacing.
- Noah was very aggressive, but he gassed himself in the process. Only seven points and eight rebounds from the big man in his first game back, but only 27 minutes. He asked to be removed from the floor 3:34 into the third quarter because he was huffing and puffing. He rested until the 5:31 mark of the fourth. Largely why Omer had all of that PT.
- Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans mixed it up with Wade a lot. Despite what Doug Thonus wrote, both played strong defense on Wade. He scored 34 because awesome players will just do that when they take 24 shots and get a lot of whistles. Wade scored 15 with Bogans on the floor and 14 with Brewer on the floor, each playing around 17-18 minutes on him. Add in the Bogans numbers are skewed by Wade in transition.
The numbers don't tell a great story for individuals, one-on-one. Basketball doesn't work like that and with analyzing players on a team that employs the help scheme like the Bulls, it's almost impossible. A difference in this game was that the Bulls defense prevented ball movement so much that the Heat reverted to a lot of isolation. Bogans struggled with it early, but learned to get physical with sly hand checks and hip checks, which was good to watch. Better he got away with it.
Yeah, and Brewer had four steals to go with his eight points on 4-for-6 shooting and four rebounds.
- Bogans was brick-tastic. He bricked all four threes he tried. They were good looks, but his rhythm was off. He's best when he catches, sizes up, and shoots in a deliberate textbook manner. He was hesitating like he wanted to jabstep or pump fake, but never actually jabstepped or pump faked. It was weird.
- Kyle Korver was brick-tastic, sucked on defense, but gets an "E" for effort, I guess. He scored seven on 2-for-7 shooting -- 2-for-6 on threes. It happens. What was weird to be was him bricking a FT in the final seconds after an intentional foul.
He sucked on defense, but he's smart enough to cover it up. I just wish he called for help more, especially when LeBron and Wade were isolating him. The spacing could've forced the stars in bad directions. On the other hand, Heat shooters didn't kill the Bulls in the corners, so you live with it.
- No one could hit threes. A 93-89 score of a 95-possession game is weird, but when you see the Bulls only shot 4-for-21 on threes and the Heat only 2-for-12, it makes more sense.
- At 39 wins, let's just be honest, the Bulls just clinched the division. Queue: victory cigar:
This is a very big win for the Bulls. No doubt, one of the most entertaining wins on the year. Losing back-to-backs just suck and gaining a game on the Heat with the Celtics (41-15) losing in Denver. The C's and Heat remain tied for the Eastern Conference lead, but the Bulls move to only two behind them.
The win at the UC puts the Bulls home record at an NBA-second-best 26-4.
Next, the Bulls go to Milwaukee to play the Bucks (22-35) on Saturday. It's a should-win, but this awful road stretch continues to make every game away from Chicago unpredictable. The Bulls' 13-13 road record has losses to the
76ers 29ers, Nyets, CRaptors, Gol_en State Warriors, and Bobcraps. I don't fear the deer, but I fear Quicken Loans Arena at this point.
If you're wondering, between the two, I would've voted for the one of the right. Basketball mascots have more integrity than political ones. Just sayin'.
Advanced Stats via Hoopdata.
EDIT: A typo had me inputting 29 points for Rose, instead of 26 in my spreadsheet. Thanks to the emailer who pointed this out to me.