How Far Will Monster Defense Take Chicago Bulls in NBA Playoffs?

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How Far Will Monster Defense Take Chicago Bulls in NBA Playoffs?
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

All hail Tom Thibodeau.

This guy has it figured out. Give him five individuals, and he'll give you one defensive monster.

Chicago held Brooklyn to 76 points on 34.6 percent shooting in Game 3. That was after holding them to 82 points on 35.4 percent in Game 2.

If there's one playoff team that could actually afford to lose its best player, the Chicago Bulls are it.

They create the illusion that opposing offenses play five-on-six against them. Over the past two games, Brooklyn hasn't been able to establish any sort of rhythm.

That's because Chicago rarely ever gives up easy baskets.

Most people count sheep, women and money in their sleep. Thibodeau counts defensive rotations.

Check out how well Chicago has protected the rim over the past two games. The Bulls just don't allow any uncontested layups or dunks inside.

Game 3:

Game 2:

The Nets shot less than 50 percent at the rim in both games. Between Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson, Chicago always has a physically opposing defender in position to challenge offense on the interior.

Watch how Boozer reads and anticipates as a help defender, taking away a scoring lane and opportunity for Joe Johnson.

But Round 2 is a different story. LeBron James is a different story.

Timely defensive rotations might help slow him down, but they won't stop him from scoring at the rim. He's just too strong, explosive and athletic. LeBron plays above the traffic, not in it.

No player in the NBA has converted more field goals within five feet than James. Not only has he made the most, his conversation rate is higher than anyone's. That includes 6'11'', 265-pound Dwight Howard:

(Chart via NBA.com/stats.)

Chris Andersen has also given Miami a whole new dimension of athleticism at the center position. He's made the Heat tougher in the middle on both sides of the ball and should help neutralize Chicago's core strength as a physical interior team.

Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls are just too reliant on their defensive prowess. While the defense has put on back-to-back clinics, Chicago's offense hasn't scored more than 90 points all series against the Nets.

The Bulls ranked No. 29 in the NBA in points per game this season.

Chicago will have to score against the Heat. It won't be able to keep Miami around the 80-point mark like it has so far with Brooklyn.

When you take away Rose, you're left with a three-legged sofa. And if Miami sits on it long enough, the foundation will collapse. Miami is just too heavy, too overwhelming. In a seven-game series, the Bulls don't have enough offensive firepower to keep up.

Of course, the Bulls still have to get through Brooklyn, but if we're talking big picture, their ceiling in these playoffs is Round 2.

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