After the Miami Heat's demoralizing Game 1 blowout loss to the Chicago Bulls, it's clear that the Heat will need to make some adjustments before Game 2 if they want to even up their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Final series.
The Bulls out-muscled, out-rebounded, out-hustled and quite simply outplayed the Heat on Sunday night in a dominating 103-82 victory to take a 1-0 lead in this series of two East powerhouses.
It has been well documented what went wrong for Miami in the series opener. Chicago used their advantage in size and length to dominate the Heat on the glass, and more importantly, outscore them 31-8 on second chance points.
That huge edge in second chance points threw the Miami defense out of sync, and ultimately wore the team down.
In addition to the rebounding and second chance scoring edge, Chicago's pesky defense clamped down on Miami's top two offensive weapons in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The superstar duo was held to a combined 33 points on 12-for-32 shooting, which was their worst performance in this postseason so far.
Fortunately for Miami, LeBron and Wade have shown an uncanny ability to rebound after off games. The Heat have proved to be a resilient squad throughout the course of the regular season and playoffs.
If the Heat can make the necessary adjustments for Game 2, they will have a great shot at stealing a game on Chicago's home floor.
Here is what the Heat need to do in order to knot up this series at one a piece, as well as my Game 2 predictions.
Allen Levin is the Miami Heat Featured Columnist on B/R, and is a journalism major at the University of Central Florida. You can contact him on his website at www.allenlevin.com.
It's been a theme for Miami all season long. When the Heat rely on isolation offense from Wade or James, their offense usually goes completely stagnant.
The All-Star duo is so effective at creating their own offense that they often tend to just call for the ball and beat their opponent off the dribble. Before they were teammates, Wade and James were used to having set isolation plays called for them, where they would just take the ball and do what they do.
While it often works for them because they are so talented offensively, it doesn't work against a lock down defensive-minded team like the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls had the best record in the league this year, and a lot of that can be credited to their stellar defense, which also ranked best in the league.
The Bulls simply know how to guard LeBron and Wade when it comes to isolation offense. If either of the two beats their defender off the dribble, the Chicago bigs swarm to the strong side and prevent them from getting to the basket.
That is why the Heat need more ball movement. Miami's offense is most effective when James and Wade are moving without the ball in their hands, instead of just standing somewhere on the perimeter. They need to utilize pick and rolls.
Chris Bosh can also become very useful in these situations. He can set picks for the wing players and then get himself open for those jump shots that he is so good at.
Either way, Miami needs to move the ball around on offense and utilize the attention that Wade and James receive when they have the ball in their hands to get other teammates open.
Miami's isolation offense worked against an older and less athletic Boston team, but will not work against a tough, athletic Chicago defense.
It sounds so obvious, but that's because it is.
Everyone knows about Miami's lack of depth and how much they rely on their Big Three to carry the team.
The fact of the matter is that Miami's talent level drops off severely after the Three Amigos, meaning that they have to perform to their capabilities on a nightly basis.
In Miami's three playoff losses this year, the trio has averaged 57.3 points. In their eight victories, that average increases to 72.1. So, it's clear that Miami needs the Big Three's 'A' game all the time.
However, James and Wade's production is even more crucial to Miami's success. The two times that LeBron scored 15 points or less in this postseason, Miami lost both those games.
The Heat need Wade and James to be the leading scorers for Miami, or they are simply not going to win. Look what happened when Bosh was the team's leading scorer in Game 1—a 21-point loss.
Bosh scored seven points in Miami's Game 1 victory against Boston, and the Heat still won by nine points. LeBron and Wade cannot do the same thing.
Fortunately for Miami, every time that the dynamic duo have suffered a subpar game, they have rebounded the very next night.
After LeBron's 15-point performance in the Heat's Game 3 loss to the Celtics, the King responded with a 35-point, 14 rebound effort.
You can expect much of the same this time around in Game 2 against Chicago.
When I say a little help, I mean just a little. Anything. Something.
Really any production off Miami's bench would be an improvement for them.
The Heat's second unit scored a mere 15 points in Game 1, compared to Chicago's 28.
Wade and James will get their points, but they are going to need at least one of the role players to step up on the offensive side. Even if that means 10-12 points from James Jones, Mario Chalmers or Mike Miller, they can use all of it.
After Jones electrifying 25-point performance a little over two weeks ago against Boston, the sharpshooter has completely disappeared. He's averaged three points in the five games since that breakout performance.
Jones needs to be hitting three-pointers when and if the Heat decide to start moving the ball. When Wade and James are penetrating, it will leave wide open looks for Jones. He's going to need to capitalize on those open shots if the Heat want to win Game 2.
Also, Miami's point guard duo of Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers need to contribute something on the offensive end as well. Chalmers had nine points in Game 1, but the Heat were still minus-14 with him on the floor.
Bibby has been a total no show in the playoffs, averaging a lackluster 3.5 points per game. The Heat are going to need some production out of their starting point guard.
This is the Eastern Conference Finals, not the first round. Team's that made it this point in the postseason did it through good team basketball. Miami will have to do the same. Of course, the Big Three will lead the way, but they are going to need just a little bit of help if they want to beat Chicago.
The Heat got out-rebounded 45-33 by Chicago in Game 1. Not to mention, the Bulls had 19 offensive boards, compared to Miami's six.
The large difference in offensive rebounds was the primary reason the Bulls got 31 second chance points that ultimately doomed the Heat. Chicago feasted on Miami around the glass and muscled the Heat's bigs until they wore them down.
Yes, the Bulls have an extreme size advantage with a frontcourt of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik. However, it wasn't just size that factored into Miami's huge deficit in the rebounding department.
Chicago simply was more aggressive and had more will than the Heat when it came to chasing down rebounds. The Bulls were hungry for the entire 48 minutes of the game when it came to hustling for boards.
Joel Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are more than capable rebounders. If the Heat want to win Game 2, they are going to have dedicate themselves to the glass.
Even Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller could be used to grab rebounds. Haslem might be rusty when it comes to scoring, but the power forward can still be a rebound machine. As for Miller, rebounds were about the only positive thing he contributed to the Heat this season, so he can be used for pure rebounding in small spurts.
Miami must do a better job on the glass in Game 2.
There's no question about it—Luol Deng shut down LeBron James in Game 1, as well as overshadowed him on the offensive end.
Deng limited James to 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting in the game, and made him almost irrelevant. On the other side, Deng scored 21 points, including 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. He also had seven rebounds and four steals.
Deng was the unsung hero of Game 1, and did a great job making the King very uncomfortable on both sides of the ball.
Everyone has tagged the Deng-James matchup as the key matchup in this series. So, if the Heat want to win Game 2 and the series, LeBron must outshine Deng.
LeBron has a solid 30-pound weight advantage over Deng, so he will need to use his combination of size and strength to overpower the Bulls forward.
James has rebounded after lackluster performance all season long, so you can expect him to come out firing in Game 2.
After Miami's Game 4 loss to Philadelphia in the first round, they responded with a series clinching victory. After Miami's Game 3 loss to Boston in the semis, they responded with a 98-90 overtime victory on the Celtics home floor.
So, the Heat are very capable of bouncing back after disappointing losses.
I expect the same route for them in Game 2 against Chicago. The Bulls will still held the edge in rebounding, but by a much smaller margin. There certainly won't be such a disparity in second chance points.
LeBron James will respond with a 30-plus point performance, and Dwyane Wade will score in the high 20's.
James Jones will hit at least two three pointers, and Mario Chalmers will score in double figures off the bench. I also expect Joel Anthony to make a major impact on the defensive side.
Derrick Rose will have another monster game, but his teammates won't be as productive as they were in Game 1.
It will be a very close game, but the Heat will pull away in the fourth quarter, led by their dynamic duo of James and Wade.
Prediction: Miami 99, Chicago 94