Jamaal Magloire played ten minutes in Game 1 for the Heat, after playing only 158 minutes in 18 regular season games. I laughed my tail off, seeing that his 6-foot-11 frame was what Erik Spoelstra felt was his best effort to get bigger, but he might be right.
Will the Heat Attempt Answering Rebounding Woes With More Jamaal Magloire?
Yes, Jamaal Magloire may be the Heat's best shot to challenge the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. Let that sink in for a moment.... And with any rotation shift to attempt challenging the Bulls' size and scheme, the Heat lose 3-point shooting and their great defense will likely still be nullified by offering up too many mulligans to the Bulls; yet, I'm serious that it may be Miami's only chance.
The Bulls out-rebounded the Heat 45-33 in the Game 1 spanking, with 31 second chance points coming off of 19 offensive rebounds. Miami's 58.7% DRR for the game was miles worse than the season-low 64.5% rate they posted against the Thunder in mid-March.
LeBron James said after the game (Reid Cherner, USA Today): "You play defense hard and the shot goes up and they get an offensive rebound, kick it out for a three or get a layup or a dunk. Those are demoralizing for a defensive team."
Across the regular season, the Heat posted an NBA-fourth bests 51.8% total rebounding rate (TRR) and 75.5% DRR. In the 2011 NBA Playoffs, that TRR's increased to 52.7%. The Bulls posted a dominant NBA-high 53.5% regular season TRR, which has increased to 54.5% in the playoffs.
No NBA team gave up less rebounds than either of the two teams in the regular season:
In the Bulls three-game regular season sweep, the Heat only grabbed 43% of available rebounds and this was repeated in Game 1 with only a 42.4% TRR.
In the regular season, no Heat player came close to Magloire's 22.9% total rebounding rate (TRR) and 31.2% rate on the defensive end (DRR). Coming off the bench in the 2009-10 season, he also led the team -- in only 359 minutes across 36 games -- with a 19.8% TRR and 26% DRR.
Erick Dampier is the more experienced of the Heat's near-seven-footers, but also three years older than Magloire with about 10,000 more minutes of NBA mileage. To say Dampier is on the decline is an understatement as he's just awful. Dampier's 12.9% TRR -- 17.1% DRR -- is less than that of the also useless, bad, but slighly better and more frequently used Zydrunas Ilgauskas (14.9%).
Of rotation players, Udonis Haslem led the Heat in 2009-10 with TRR (17.8%) and DRR (24.8%). Before his injury, he also posted better rates than Dampier, Ilgauskas, and Joel Anthony -- 18.2% and 25%, respectively. The extent of his health and the effects of his rust are unknown and risky, but given the Heat's ineptitude, relative to the size, athleticism, and aggressiveness of the Bulls.
The real answer for Spoelstra might be the desperate act of living and dying with Haslem's capabilities, which may well still be non-existent. And doing so in a high quantity.
Miami may be at a point where they shouldn't be on the floor much without Haslem or Magloire. And that should be music to a Bulls' fans, er, eyes. Neither present matchup problems on either end of the court that disrupt the Bulls rotation of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Omer Asik, and Taj Gibson down low. Neither are better rebounders than any of those Bulls bigs and neither take attention away from Noah, Asik, and Gibson helping to stop dribble penetration and keep a body on Chris Bosh.
Aggressive offensive rebounding carries the risk of the defense not resetting fast enough, but the Bulls' bigs carried their athleticism to counter this by running the floor better than opponents anyway. Likewise, the Heat can crash the defensive boards with these offensively inept bigs without the need for those bigs to get back to playing a strong offensive role with The Big Three dominating the ball and 3-point shooters on their perimeter.
The alternative to their small starting lineup with the 6-foot-9 Joel Anthony at center without going bigger is Bosh in the middle with LeBron James at the four. This puts James Jones/Mike Miller at the three, Dwyane Wade at the two, and Mike Bibby/Mario Chalmers at the point. Looking at every offensive rebound, the task is too large for Bosh (Kevin Arnovitz, Heat Index).
The problem with this for Miami is that the added pressure on LeBron to play bigger takes the ball out of his hands and away from disrupting the perimeter with his defense. LeBron and Bosh down low creates the mismatch for Boozer or Luol Deng to exploit with ease with or without the ball in their hands. Then, the problem is no longer how Miami rebounds the bricks, but forcing those bricks in the first place.
Of course, all of the possibilities for the Heat never make up for the Bulls' size, athleticism, and shifting to prevent Miami from grabbing offensive rebounds. This inherently disrupts the Heat's transition game on defensive rebounds, as their offense will require more time for those bigs to go end-to-end and reset to challenge the faster, taller Bulls' bigs on the offensive glass.
Otherwise, playing too fast will result in too many possession-killing bricks against the Bulls' adept defense. The Bulls defense is just too great to expect wins without great offensive rebounding, too.
Spoelstra's in a spot where the only way his old, tired, badly conditioned bigs can challenge on both glasses will likely be to expand his rotation to Magloire, Ilgauskas, and Haslem rotating in shorter shifts. This is very doable as it leaves the useless Dampier and Juwan Howard inactive; but advantageous for the Bulls as it limits the floor-spreading snipers -- Jones, Miller, and Bibby -- Miami can put on the floor.
Derrick Rose's offense and the long ranges of Kyle Korver and Keith Bogans already make Eddie House unplayable, as his bad defense is too much a crushing liability. Chalmers is the only adequate defensive option of Miami's shooters; a strong 3-point shooter, but decisively he's the worst of the five.
The Heat looked great in the first two rounds, simply, because the 76ers and Celtics are also smaller than the Bulls and posted significantly lower regular season TRRs -- respectively 49.6 and 49.5% -- that rolled over into the playoffs. Now, Miami's lineups have to be bigger to not get killed on the glass in ways that negate their defensive efforts.
Every option sacrifices the 3-point shooting they absolutely need to relieve pressure off their Big Three against the NBA's best defense. And with that, their best effort to rebound uncontroversially may still be futile.