Bricktastic Bulls Fall to Some Strong Heat Defense in Game 2

Bricktastic Bulls Fall to Some Strong Heat Defense in Game 2

The Bulls shot like schoolchildren, as the Heat took homecourt advantage, winning 85-75 in Game 2 to tie the series at 1-1.

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The Bulls and Heat turned Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals into a help defense clinic, but the Bulls couldn’t shoot themselves out of a paper bag, as the Heat better created scoring opportunities to win 85-75 on Wednesday at the United Center. The series goes to Miami for Games 3 and 4 with the series tied 1-1 and the Heat with homecourt advantage in what’s effectively a best-of-five series and only two more remaining in Chicago.

The Bulls played great defense, but LeBron James (29 points on 12-for-21, 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals, five turnovers, 46 minutes) hit some greatest-in-the-league shots. He and Dwyane Wade (24 points on 8-for-16, 8-for-10 on FTs, nine rebounds, two blocks, 40 minutes) attacked the basket — with and without the ball — very well in ways that made them seem unstoppable at times. The Bulls also won the turnover battle, only coughing up the rock 10 times to the Heat 15.
The Bulls lost the game with embarrassingly bad shooting, giving up too many offensive rebounds that kept the ball out of their own hands, late rotations to Miami’s off-ball movement that resulted in too many shooting fouls, and the Bulls bricked way too many FTs. Tom Thibodeau quickly gave the Heat credit for a great defensive game over blaming his team for bricking shots.

“No, you have to give them credit; their defense was outstanding,” he said after the game. “I thought they were into us. They fought us. Their ball pressure was great. They challenged shots. And then when the ball was up on the board, they were in the fight.”

The Bulls took small leads in the faster-paced first half, but neither team led this defensive battle by more than 11. The Heat made a 10-0 run in the third quarter that put them up 67-56 with 3:32 remaining, but the Bulls closed the gap and tied the game with 7:17 remaining by executing some amazing defense creating easy offense early in the fourth. But after that, both teams physically collapsed and Miami dominated the war of attrition, closing the game on a 12-2 run over those final seven minutes.
The ugly 10-point fourth quarter was a franchise-low for the Bulls and the Heat were putrid on offense, too, other than James’ nine points in the quarter. By contrast, Derrick Rose played the entire second half, but followed his 10-point third quarter with a two-point fourth that included airballing jumpers like it was his job. James hit shots with strength after Miami drained Rose’s tank.
The Bulls shot an embarrassingly low 34.2% from the field, bricked 17-of-20 3-pointers to shoot a .231 3P%, and bricked an amazing 10-of-26 FTs for a .615 FT% on the night. The Heat didn’t get bigger, but more athletic down low with Udonis Haslem, and rebounded great as a team.
Luol Deng said after the game on being bricky: “We’re never worried about missed shots. We’re really not. In the playoffs, you’re going to have nights when you make shots and nights where you miss shots. You’ve got to fight. You’ve got to have the will to fight. We did a good job of fighting back, but they won the fight tonight.”
“You know, I thought when we started missing shots, it took a lot out of us,” Thibs added. “We played low-energy offense. We played low-energy defense. And the result was not great. I thought in the third quarter, when [Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik, and Taj Gibson] came into the game, we had a stretch there where we played some defense and we were able to get back into the game. […]  I thought they got their confidence early, they had a big second quarter, and I think that got them going. And then the third quarter they had their run. And it starts with our defense. Our defense and rebounding are two things we have to be able to count on.”

  • The Heat moved great off the ball. In the regular season, they performed what Synergy Sports calls “cuts” 7% of the time. In Game 1, they performed them 6.6% of their possessions, but 18.3% of their plays in Game 2 for 17 points in those 17 plays (Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook).

    With this LeBron and Wade got to the basket well off the ball, combining to shoot 9-for-11 at the rim — six assisted — and 11-for-17 at the FT line. The Bulls held them under 30 points there, but the buckets looked easy when they cut through the weak side of the Bulls’ defense and their teammates made feeds so great, the cuts were obviously well designed from Erik Spoelstra‘s sidelines.

  • Rose had a ton of moments with nowhere to go and no one to whom he could pass. That’s some great spacing on the part of the Heat. There was a bit of standing around by the Bulls, as the Heat’s offensive motion called for more resting, but even when Bulls moved, Heat rotated very well, collapsed the paint on penetration and recovered to shooters well enough.
  • Rose sucked (21 points on 7-for-23, 0-for-3 on 3s, five ORBs, 42 minutes). He said after the game he “missed shots he normally makes” and he was right. He went 2-for-4 at the rim, 0-for-7 at 3-9 feet, and only 7-for-10 on FTs. On the brighter side, he only turned the ball over twice, grabbed six rebounds, dished out eight assists, and hit shots he normally misses (5-for-9 on long-2s).
  • Carlos Boozer is finishing soft again (seven points on 3-for-10, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks). The Heat kept bodies between him and the basket and Boozer didn’t take too many jumpers, but other than an open lane baseline dunk, he went 2-for-4 at the rim and 0-for-2 at 3-9 feet from the basket.  He rebounded well, played good isolation defense, but blew help rotations all over the place.

    He did manage to get two crafty steals, swatting at ball handlers all night without fouling. In this case, he was a pesky asset on the perimeter. One of those pokes led to easy offense:

  • Deng had great court vision, but passed to the wrong team a lot (13 points on 5-for-15, four turnovers, five rebounds, 46 minutes). James hit some hand-in-facers, OK, but Deng’s four turnovers were all great-idea-bad-execution quick passes. He’s a fantastic interior passer and showed those skills off on both his assists, but the turnovers were gross.
  • Deng couldn’t buy a trey. He went 1-for-7 on mostly wide-open 3s. Ironically, the one he hit was a more-than-halfcourt buzzer-beater:

    Deng’s in a tough spot where he needs maximum energy to defend James, but needs to also use his offense to challenge James’. He took it to the hole often, but maybe those interior passes should’ve been efforts to draw contact from Miami’s more incompetent bigs. Deng only shot 2-for-2 at the line, while going 3-for-3 at the rim and 0-for-3 at 3-9 feet.

    Again, the court vision and disruption effort is lauded, but Deng just needs to attack, finish, and get to the line a lot of times — especially later in shot clocks. When he pushed inside, he was a amazing. When he sought to finish hard, he slammed all over Jamaal Magloire‘s head:

  • Versatile offensive game by Joakim Noah, but shaky help in the second half (nine points on 4-for-9, eight rebounds). There were moments where Deng and Rose were left on islands far too long with James. Sure, LeBron can it the open man, but Noah’s fast enough to recover. He’s better than that, I guess I should say.

    That said, he displayed some great passing skills on a play, but it was his only assist, as he was too gassed from defense to man the point much for Rose in those UCLA sets:

    He played strong and physical and showed off some beautiful handles, leading the fastbreak with a quick dish to get the pass back and finish:

  • Gibson, Asik, and Brewer were pretty awesome off the bench. All three hustled, forced a ton of bricks, grabbed rebounds, and played aggressive offense. They combined for 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting with seven rebounds and two steals in 21, 17, and 16, respectively.

    Of the Bulls’ shifts that lasted for at least a minute, four were positive in the plus-minus column. Three of those were with Brewer on the floor. Gibson scored eight of the Bulls’ 10 points in the fourth quarter.

  • Kyle Korver was useless (three points on 1-for-7, 1-for-5 on 3s, four rebounds, four fouls, 18 minutes). Bricked a ton of 3s and resorting to being nothing more than slappy on defense when a moves were made on him. To his defense, the Heat kept bodies near him.

    Keith Bogans wasn’t much better (five points on 2-for-5, 1-for-4 on 3s, 16 minutes), but at least he can guard someone. That said, he was a -9 with Korver’s -8 on the night.

  • I hope I’m not right that pushing Haslem’s limits can equalize the rebounding battle. But last night didn’t make me feel good. He scored 13 points and grabbed, five rebounds in only 23 minutes. He was James’ favorite open-man target, as he shot 5-for-10 in the most minutes he’s played since going down to foot surgery in November.

    If he’s the Haslem we’ve gotten to know over his seven-year career, this will be a tough seven-game series. If his wheels can’t take the pounding on the hardwood, we’ll see more like Game 1. But there’s no question that it’s imperative Spoelstra risks Haslem’s health to win this series.

    In the 13 games he played this season, he shot 48% on long-2s and 45% in each of the prior two seasons. Yes, knocking down those shots on the pick n’ pop is very, very repeatable.

If there’s cause for concern, it isn’t the crowd in Miami and I think the weather and three days to travel, settle in, and watch film will help the Bulls. The cause is Spoelstra really employing a smart defensive scheme, keeping James and Wade attacking the basket when they don’t have the ball, and his team’s gang-rebounding. This is very repeatable. They won 58 games and blew out opponents so much for this very reason.
Game 3 in Miami will be played on Sunday evening at 7:30 CST on TNT.
Advanced Stats via Hoopdata.

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  • It's certainly repeatable...but even with those cuts leading to some easy Miami scores the Bulls still limited them to 85 points. What adjustments can Thibs make to limit these? Or, is this a weakness the Bulls may just have to live with?

  • In reply to BearDown1982:

    Not really sure because Wade and James are that damn good. Especially with Haslem on the floor, it's one less guy you can sag off to cover a lane opened up by the help, but I have a couple of thoughts:

    1.) If the Bulls move more on offense, don't miss layups and open jumpers, and on the move recognize the opportunity to draw contact instead of passing too much, the Heat use up the energy needed to run such motion in their offense. The Heat were great at legitimately contesting shots inside without whacking while going for blocks; this kept the Bulls off the line, despite their aggressiveness.

    2.) With Taj and Brewer on the floor, Noah's the only person who really needs the heavily active feet. Force the Heat into isolation to drain shot clock and force perfect passing decisions with later help.

    3.) Sebastian Pruiti was a proponent early in the season for zone play against Miami. This stifles their movement, but it's bad to concede the size advantage on the glass to a Heat that rebounds really well as a team. Miami's shot a good FG% in both games, so those defensive rebounds are that much more valuable.

    The Heat were gassed from the movement on both ends required to win and LeBron compensated for it by taking being the best on the floor. Wade can do this if LeBron takes a the beating Wade took. If they both take a beating, Bosh can move well off the ball as he did in Game 1 and Haslem's there for the pick n' pop with a 3-point shooting PG in the corner.

    I'm excited to see what Thibs does, but it might just be a higher alertness for Miami's timing and spacing patterns, and the Bulls being more active with their feet.

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