Five keys for Bulls/Heat in Game 4

In Game 2, the Chicago Bulls mustered up just 75 points — 29 in the
second half — on 34 percent shooting. In Game 3, they scored 85, though
gave up a series-high 96 points to the Miami Heat, who shot 51 percent
from the field, led by Chris Bosh’s 34 points on 13-for-18 shooting.
That won’t cut it if you’re the Bulls — the number one defensive team
in the NBA during the regular-season.

The Bulls will look to get
things right on both ends in a must-win Game 4, as they trail the series

Let’s take a look at five keys for the Bulls to take Game 4
in Miami.

1. Play with urgency for 48 minutes:
The Bulls played with energy throughout Game 1, and had a 103-82 victory to show for it. They outworked the Heat on both ends, outrebounding them 45-33, adding 19 offensive rebounds for 31 second-chance points. The Heat only had eight. That’s the type of energy the Bulls need from the tap to the fourth quarter buzzer. Tuesday marks a big game for Joakim Noah, too. He’s coming off a one-point, five-rebound performance in Game 3, to go along with a verb altercation on the side line. How will he perform? It’ll have to be big for the Bulls. Coming into the series, we knew the Bulls weren’t going to beat the Heat with star power — it was going to be from outworking, outhustling and outmanning the Heat. The Bulls were outrebounded 45-41 in Game 2 and allowed the Heat to score 28 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3. Tuesday night is a must-win game for the Bulls. They can’t afford to go back to Chicago down 3-1. Could they comeback from a 3-1 deficit? Sure. Is it likely? Absolutely not. That’s why Game 4 must be played with delicacy and urgency for all 48 minutes. The Bulls could very well be playing for their season.

2. Where’s the Bulls’ star?: There’s no coincidence that the Bulls are trailing this series 2-1 because of Rose’s 2011 NBA playoffs series-low 23 points per game versus the Heat. The Heat’s doing a good job defensively on Rose, holding him to 39 percent from the field and just six free-throws per game, after Rose racked up 12 per game in the first round and seven in the second round. Rose, who’s scored just four points in the fourth quarters of Games 2 and 3, has to be aggressive, as well. But he knows that: “I have to be way more aggressive,” Rose said on Monday. The Bulls lost both games and will continue to lose games in this series unless Rose is the best player on the court — especially on the road. Besides his 28-point, six-assist Game 1, Rose has played like a dud, not a stud. In addition, the Bulls have to do a better job of getting him in the proper offensive sets, ones that have floor spacing. The paint is always clogged up because of the Bulls’ lack of shooting from the outside — Kyle Korver’s 3-for-12 from the field in the series doesn’t help. Korver, Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans will need to hit shots, because right now, the Heat are sagging off them. But it’s on Rose, who’s being “contained” by the slow and small Mike Bibby. It’s time to play up to the Most Valuable Player name — doing so in a must-win Game 4 would be a start.

DRose--Game 3ECF.jpg

If the Bulls want to even the series up heading to Chicago for Game 5, they’ll need to get an MVP-type performance from their star, Mr. Rose.

3. Keep defensive lapses at a premium: The Bulls’ defense broke down, failed to rotate and missed assignments more than they have all postseason. It got to the point where the Bulls simply dared the Heat to make jumpers and finish at the rim. They did both. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will get theirs, but the Bulls will have to keep the rest of the cast in check. Bosh hit 13 of his final 15 shots, though most of them were terribly executed defensive series by the Bulls, who basically told Bosh to beat them by shooting jumpers. He and his teammates did: Bosh and Udonis Haslem killed the Bulls from the outside, as the two hit a combined 10 jumpers. They’ve proven they can hit them, now it’s time for the Bulls to make adjustments. Here’s one: guard them. Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls talked about the defensive lapses in Game 3 — and they weren’t pretty. Said Luol Deng: “Our defense isn’t very good at all right now.” If that’s the case in Game 4, the Bulls will be starring at a 3-1 series deficit.

4. Boozer’s encore: After Boozer put up 26 points and 17 rebounds in Game 3 (both playoff-highs), the question is: Can he repeat the performance? He was brought to Chicago for just that, 20 and 10. However, every time we’ve thought Boozer’s broken out of his playoff rut, he disappoints. The Bulls will need a balanced attack to beat the Heat in South Florida — receiving 20 and 10 from Boozer, 17-18 from Deng, will be needed if the Bulls are going to retain homecourt advantage. Even though Boozer gave them just that, 20 and 10, they lost Game 3. That’s got to be demoralizing, but the way Boozer responded after an 0-for-5 start — hitting eight of his last 14 field-goals — provides some light at the end of the tunnel. It was similar to Game 6 versus the Atlanta Hawks, as Boozer got to his sweet spots, going back to his bread-and-butter: the midrange game, hitting four of five. Said Boozer: “I thought I was getting shots that I liked,” Boozer said. “So I just kept getting to the spots I wanted to get to.” The Bulls will need a similar Boozer for Game 4, and he knows it.

5. Something’s got to give: The Bulls have not lost three in a row all season; the Heat have not lost at home these playoffs (7-0). The Bulls were 16-4 during the regular-season coming off a loss, and after losing Game 3 on Wednesday, they are 3-1 in those situations during the playoffs. They could use some of those Thibodeau adjustments on Tuesday. It’s tough to envision the Bulls losing three in a row, and if they do, their chances of reaching the NBA Finals are slim-to-none. Will they lose their third in a row for the first time this season or will the Heat lose for the first time at home in these playoffs? Hopefully, the latter.

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