Bulls Blew Out the Heat in Game 1 With Big Boy Basketball

Bulls Blew Out the Heat in Game 1 With Big Boy Basketball

The Bulls dominated the second half of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Heat 103-82.

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The Bulls' 103-82 win over the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the United Center on Sunday was close until it -- well -- wasn't. The Bulls secured a 1-0 lead in the seven-game series with the rout in which they shut down LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the second half and dominated the glass in a way that showed the Heat as too small.

James (15 points on 5-for-15, 4-for-4 on FTs, six rebounds, six assists, three blocks, four turnovers) and Wade (18 points on 7-for-17, 4-for-4 on FTs, three steals, four turnovers) were limited to five and six points, respectively in Miami's embarrassing second half -- with Wade held scoreless in the fourth quarter. Neither were productive for Miami outside of transition; and after turning the ball over eight times in the first half, the Bulls only did so once in the second.
The Bulls came out with sloppy opening minutes, where the Heat built a 19-11 early lead with a 13-4 run. As they buckled down, both teams put on a defensive clinic for the remainder of the half. The Heat were relentlessly swarming the ball as it progressed inside, but this took them out of position to rebound or challenge 3-pointers (Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook). The Bulls had some third effort breakdowns to allow for Chris Bosh to aggressively create great scoring opportunities.
The thoroughly exploited the Heat's weakness, but the Heat won't win riding Bosh and the Bulls defense isn't getting worse. The Bulls weren't just executing and the Heat weren't just misfiring. Miami's 16 turnovers with only 11 assists largely show they still have no answer for Tom Thibodeau's help scheme. Bosh was really amazing in his execution and in the manner which he took initiative with and without the ball, but countering Thibs' defense requires three or four players off the ball forcing multiple efforts from the five Bulls on the floor.
"They missed some shots that they normally make," Thibs noted after the game. "So, we're gonna' have to clean some things up. Bosh had a big night against us, so we're gonna' have to do a better job guarding him."

When asked a stupid question on Bosh going 1-for-18 his last game at the UC compared to tonight, Thibs added: "Bosh has been a great player in this league for a long time. Every great player will have a game like that once in a blue moon, so we knew the likelihood of that happening again was remote. But we gotta' do a lot better on him.... He's a hard guy. He's got a quick release. He plays off his jab extremely well. He can hurt you inside on the rolls, face you up; he can score in different ways."

On the containment of James, Thibs said: "LeBron's such a tough cover. You don't guard him individually. You guard him with your team. And he's so unselfish. He's gonna' pass the ball when he's being double-teamed; that's how he plays."

Specially on Luol Deng's defense, Thib added: "Luol's gonna' make him work.... It's not only when he's guarding LeBron with the ball, but when he's away from the ball, he fulfills his help responsibilities.... He can help, recover, challenge a shot, then, get back in and rebound."

On the great play of Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Taj Gibson, and C.J. Watson, he noted: "Our bench has been great all year. You can count on their energy and effort every night. They all bring something different. Taj and Omer bring the defense and shot blocking, their ability to get second shots. C.J. ran the team very well; his ball pressure was huge. And Ronnie was all over the place; he's everywhere."

  • The Bulls are bigger and deeper than the Heat (and that's not code for anything). Make no doubt about this: the Bulls bench killed the Heat's, the athleticism and alertness of their bigs made the paint impenetrable without putting James and Wade at the FT line, and the Heat just don't have any to clean up the bricks they force.
  • The Bulls scored an insane 31 second chance points on 19 offensive rebounds. Eight of Joakim Noah's game-high 14 rebounds were on the offensive end, as it was clear the Bulls were prepared to be a bit brick-tastic against a strong Miami defense. In the third quarter, where they had a 10-0 run and outscored the Heat by nine, they only shot 33%, but had six offensive boards in that quarter alone. The Heat were moving the ball very well in the first half, but the Bulls spaced better and Miami slowed down to the Bulls favor (Matt Moore, Eye on Basketball).

    The two teams had virtually equal eFG and TS percentages, but the Bulls' offensive rebounds extended so many possessions, they had 19 more shots from the floor and five more shots at the FT line than the Heat.

    Miami has no way to prevent handing a huge margin of error to the Bulls offense. There's no answer. They're not getting bigger. Their only answer to not getting out-rebounded -- as they did 45-33 in Game 1 -- is to crowd the paint in ways that lessens their ability to force the turnovers to create easy buckets against the best defense in the NBA.

  • The ball was kept out of LeBron's hands and limited his options to distribute. The Bulls were denying the ball so well when James ran the point that he drained a lot of clock being forced into isolation play against Luol Deng and was relegated to being a brick-tastic jump-shooter. He only shot 2-for-6 at 16-23 feet and 1-for-3 on 3s without getting to the FT line.

    Miami's adjustment was to vary the ball handler more in the second half and James pretty much disappeared, taking only seven shots, due to great off-ball defense by Deng.

  • Wade was.... I'm not sure what Wade was doing. He couldn't create shots off the ball with Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer on him. With the ball, he was continuously stifled by varying degrees of the Bulls' bigs showing help.
  • A lot of this help freed up space for Bosh to be crafty without the ball. And cheers to Bosh for being aggressive and playing some big boy basketball out there. But his game-high 30 points on 12-for-18 and nine rebounds were a losing effort. That's about as good as Bosh can play and that's about as repeatable as James and Wade only combining for eight FTAs in the game.
  • The Bulls made up for bricking 2s with offensive rebounds; for not getting to the FT line a bit more, they rained 3s. The Bulls shot an amazing 10-for-21 (47.7%) on 3s, executing the inside-out game to counter the Heat collapsing the inside when the ball moved toward the basket. This closed the gap the two teams' points-per-shot rates.
  • Rose's ankle is much, much better. His lateral movement was matching his forward explosiveness, as he was forced to aggressively and quickly cut around excellent Heat defensive rotations. He finished was a team-high 28 points on 10-for-22 and six assists. Three of his four turnovers came in the first quarter.
  • That said, Rose lacked some attack. He went only 1-for-1 at the rim and 2-for-4 at 3-9 feet, while going 4-for-8 on long-2s and 3-for-7 on 3s. He's said he'll take the shots opponents give him and he took great advantage of the space Miami sacrificed to pick him up in his penetration and his played a very strong inside-out game, but he'll need to absorb more contact by attack the basket in ways that punish the Heat for being too slow and small, despite their strong defensive exection.
  • Deng was a star. His defense is a high point, but the team defense stifled the Heat's offensive options to make them look silly. I'm fine with Deng bricking shots, as long as he makes James work on defense to take energy away from the Miami offense.

    Deng's 21 points on 7-for-15 -- 4-for-6 on 3s -- added to the great defense, seven rebounds, and three steals he had. He wont shoot like this all series, -- as James is an awesome defender -- but he can take energy from James and force fouls to remove The Decider from the game here and there.

  • Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson showed up big. Boozer (14 points and 5-for-10, 4-for-4 on FTs, nine rebounds, 26 minutes) had a bit more lift, attacked the rim enough to go 4-for-6 there and get to the FT line.
  • Taj was a beast. His nine points on 4-for-8 and seven rebounds in 23 minutes don't nearly depict his fight. Three boards were offensive, he added two blocks, and went 3-for-3 at the rim with some dunk porn, but went 1-for-4 on the long-2s in which he's clearly over-confident.

    He dominated the inside on both sides of the floor and recovered well to shooters when after helping prevent the dribble penetration. There's no question that if he limits his hesitation, he's a deciding factor in this series.

  • We could see more of Wade on Rose in Game 2. Rose scored 21 on 8-for-15 in 18 plays when defended by Mario Chalmers or Mike Bibby, who never seemed to have a clue. "On the 11 plays when he was defended by another Heat player, most often [Wade], he managed just seven points and made two of his seven shots from the field." (ESPN Stats/Info).
  • Bulls dominance to this extent isn't repeatable. Are they capable of more blowouts against the Heat? Yes, but holding Rose and Deng combining to outscore James and Wade by 16 shouldn't be expected. Holding the Heat to only 15 FTAs without sacrificing aggressiveness on the defense is even more difficult.

    The Heat came into Game 1 averaging 29.7 FTAs per game in the playoffs, led by Wade (9.4), James (9.2), and Bosh (6.0), K.C. Johnson noted before the game (Chicago Tribune). The Big Three combined for only 14 in Game 1. Also, with this, the Bulls will have even tougher rides through this series not getting to the FT line more themselves. There's only so many times you can shoot under 45% with a sub-.500 eFG% and beat a team as adept at creating easy points as Miami.

    That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the Bulls' getting 20+ second chance points per game in this series is a constant, so the mulligans are definitely repeatable to a significant extent. Again, the Heat aren't getting any bigger and the bigger they go with their lineups, they're generally less effective (Tom Haberstroh, Heat Index). But -- as Pat Riley wrote on his chalkboard, while coaching the Showtime Lakers in the 1980s -- "No rebounds = No rings" (Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk).

    The also shot 9-for-20 on long-2s, which is an over-achieving percentage, but 20 attempts is selective enough to find and drain at least 40% of the looks. The games ought to be closer to where those are coming off of well-executed pick n' pops, mixed with Korver and Deng coming off screens after Rose uses his dribble penetration to force more traps.

  • The rebounding rout wasn't a fluke. In their three regular season matchups against the Bulls, the Heat only grabbed 33.0 RPG -- well under their 41.9 RPG for the entire season. The Heat had a strong 51.8% rebounding rate throughout the season, but that fell to 43% against the Bulls. This was repeated as only 42.3% in Game 1 -- well under their 52.7% rate in the 2011 NBA Playoffs (StatsCube).
Game 2 in Chicago won't be played until Wednesday evening. See the complete ECF schedule here.

Advanced Stats via Hoopdata.

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