The Bulls were well stopped by the Heat defense, but made it easier for Miami with bad offense in their 96-85 loss in Miami in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Heat took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals with a 96-85 win over the Bulls. Miami never led by more than seven until midway through the fourth quarter, but never trailed after the midway point of the first quarter and never seemed highly threatened by the Bulls' play.
- The Bulls' effort and energy was awful. The defense wasn't good, but the Bulls chased loose balls aggressively to win the rebounding battle. Unfortunately, when they poked balls away, they couldn't finish with steals and Miami easily created in dying shot clocks. Miami's 16 points on 13 turnovers and the Bulls being completely absent of motion on offense was nothing short of frustrating and annoying to watch.
Deng can get a pass on chillin' in the corner because he took good shots with good looks -- not slashing with the ball or cutting off the ball because guarding James on the other end is an energy drainer. And James is one of the best defenders in the game. But Deng and Keith Bogans spot shooting called for more Rose cuts when Noah manned the point and that just wasn't there. Ronnie Brewer (four points on 2-for-6, two steals, 25 minutes) was active without the ball, despite energetic defense on the other end, but bricked his two layups. Just goes to show how The Big Three's offense drains the offense of their opponents.
If Deng's going to be a 3-point spotter, the Bulls need Brewer and Kyle Korver on the floor more and in more motion; but this demands better help on defense.
- Rose was being challenged by bigs inside who weren't trying to block his shot, which kept him off the FT line the entire game, other than three trips at the end of the first half. Including his .262 3P% in the playoffs, Rose is only shooting .281 from the long range in the 50 games since Jan. 29. He's shooting .431 on long-2s in the playoffs, but those are naked 2s when they fall. If he can't get to the FT line, his volume becomes a liability.
- The Bulls' pick n' roll was horrendous, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com found:
Bulls on pick-and-roll in Game 3: 33.3 FG%, turnovers 1/4 of the time, 0.7 points per possession. (ESPN S & I)
- Bosh is exploiting Boozer, John Schuhmann of NBA.com noted after the game (h/t Mike Prada):
60 of Bosh's points in series have come in Boozer's 92 min. on the floor (31 per 48). 14 have come in Booz's 52 min. on bench (13 per 48).
Boozer is rarely directly on Bosh and the Bulls don't run a 1-on-1 man defense, but when James moves the Bulls defense, it's Boozer's lack of a third effort that gives more easy looks. That said, the entire Bulls defense rotated embarrassingly slow.
- The Bulls let the Heat get away with not crashing the boards by fouling too much. The Big Three combined for 44 points at the rim and FT line.
Miami only grabbed five offensive rebounds, concentrating on transition defense, but the slow rotations opened up easy lanes for ball handlers and off-ball creators. Bosh, James, and Dwyane Wade (17 points on 6-for-17, nine rebounds, four turnovers) combined to shoot 22-for-25 on FTs. That's just too easy for them when the opposing defense isn't moving their feet well.
- Noah was ridiculous. His help was aggressive, but his recovery was constantly awful, making him easy bait. James played him like a fiddle, when it looked like he was trying to work Deng. He manned the point extremely well for those assists as the secondary ball handler, but when the Heat sagged off, he couldn't finish when he took the ball inside (Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook).
He'll likely deservedly face a huge fine for yelling, "Fuck you, faggot!" because: (a) it was directed toward a heckler; and (b) TNT televised it:
- James always seemed to know how to get a teammate open by shifting the defense. He made amazing passes, called for timely cuts, and drew double teams in the post extremely well. That said, Deng attacked him a bit over-zealously, allowing James to periodically make moves around him. He assists led to 21 points, as he only shot in 20.3% of the 75.3% Heat's possessions in which he touched the ball (ESPN Stats/Info).
- Bulls attacked the rim, but couldn't finish at all. They went an outright embarrassing 10-for-30 on layups with only 21 trips to the line (CBSSports.com). Miami did a solid job of contesting inside without trying for blocks, which kept their fouls down, but the Bulls never took advantage of their aggressiveness with more basket cuts and interior passing.
- The inside-out game was completely lacking. It wasn't that the Bulls bricked too many shots; they actually shot strong percentages on long-2s -- at a good, low volume (9-for-14, 64.3%) -- and an highly efficient rate on 3-pointers (41.7%), but instead of that extra kickout to open shooters, the Bulls were bricked well-contested layups without drawing contact. Sure, taking too many 3s is bad, but with Miami collapsing as they were, more than 12 3-point attempts were dictated by the game.
- Boozer played some big boy basketball. The idea was there, as he posted up a ton more and attacked at the very high volume the Bulls want and need. But his 2-for-7 on layups absolutely needs to improve. He had a dunk and bricked one, but most of his layups should've been dunk attempts. This broken record is even frustrating when he has such a highly productive game.
- Korver's lack of movement took him out of the game. Again, goes back to the tough task of defending Wade. Korver's also the lead guard in the Bulls' transition defense and the turnovers expended so much energy that each would effectively remove Korver's offense from the following possession.
That said, when he did move, he couldn't break free from the coverage. In those cases, the Bulls need to create for him by going inside-out.
- The Bulls aren't losing in transition. The Heat only had 10 fastbreak points with only four breakaway shot attempts (NBA.com [pdf]). Their defense is legitimately getting handled in the halfcourt, where the Heat shot 49.2% in Game 3 (ESPN Stats/Info). This is scary.