After appearing to dominate the Miami Heat in Game 1, the Chicago Bulls came out flat and fell to the Heat in Game 2, 85-75. The games were virtual polar opposites: the Heat supporting cast played strong in Game 1 while the Big Three played well in game two. For Chicago, they got every rebound and killed Miami with the three ball in Game 1, while they shot a pathetic 34% from the field and 15% from three for Game 2.
Since we have seen two completely different teams take the floor in each of the last two games, which Chicago team can we expect to show up throughout the series against Miami?
In Game 2, everything went wrong for the Bulls. They managed to shoot a pathetic 34% from the field, 15% from three, and even a paltry 61.5% at the line. If the Bulls manage to play to their averages in even one of these categories, this is a very different ball game. The Bulls also shockingly got outrebounded by the Heat 45-41, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all getting as many or more rebounds than Joakim Noah, typically a rebound machine.
Watching the game, and looking back at the shot chart, it's incredible how many good looks the Bulls got that they just could not capitalize on. In fact, the Bulls shot 11-28 on layups and Derrick Rose was 0-7 from shots 3-9 feet from the basket.
The Heat on the other hand had a relatively good game, shooting 47% from the field and as mentioned before, outrebounding the Bulls after the big three stepped up on the boards. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 53 points on 54% shooting. Udonis Haslem also surprised off the bench with 13 points and two highlight dunks reminiscent of Taj Gibson in Game 1.
If you take the shooting numbers from Game 2 for Chicago and projected numbers based on their season averages (46% from the field, 36% from three, 74% from the line) using the exact same amount of attempts, the game goes a vastly different direction. You would expect the Bulls to instead shoot 38-82 from the field, 7-20 from three and 19-24 from the line. If these averages had held true, the Bulls would have actually scored 102 points rather than their mediocre 75.
I want to make clear that I am not trying to say that if the Bulls hit their shots, they would have run away with this game. All I am trying to say with those numbers is that the Bulls had a historically bad shooting night with those numbers, even by their average offensive standards.
The fact is too that the Bulls were in this game until the end. Until there was 4:28 left in the fourth, Chicago was all tied up with Miami. If Derrick Rose plays at the end like he has shown he can play in the playoffs, Chicago could have easily won this ugly game, but that's just not the way things went. In the end, even though Chicago played one of their worst games ever and Derrick Rose was missing in action, the Bulls put themselves in a position to win, and that cannot be emphasized enough.
In Game 1, Chicago was able to pull ahead and blow out Miami behind a strong rebounding performance, especially on the offensive end. On the 49 missed shots that Chicago had, they managed to rebound 39% of those, a huge percentage. Chicago also capitalized on the poor closeouts on the three point line by Miami by nailing 48% of their three pointers. In the end though, Chicago shot a pedestrian 44% but managed to pull away easily in the fourth and win by over 20.
At the same time, most of the Heat showed up, just not their two best players. Other than Udonis Haslem and Eddie House who missed a shot each in garbage time, the Heat outside of the Big Two shot 59% from the field and 50% from three, numbers they likely will not duplicate again.
At least one of LeBron or Wade will likely go off on an average night, so this game cannot be taken as a preview of things to come. However what the Bulls did well in Game 1 was rebound, convert second chance opportunities, swarm the Heat on defense and come at the Heat with their depth. All of these strengths are things that we should see every night, and they are facets of the game that Miami has shown to have struggled with in both games, even the one they lost.
What the Bulls Should Change
The Bulls need to make sure that Derrick Rose does not have to spend much time running around chasing Wade and LeBron on defense. The Bulls have a distinct advantage that they have perhaps even three defenders that they could throw at Wade and two more they could throw at LeBron, not to mention the deep big man rotation that has three guys who have shown at least flashes of being able to stay with the Big Two on the perimeter and make life difficult. With these great advantages, you can't let Derrick Rose get tired on defense.
As well, try to create mismatches for Rose on offense. The Heat are limited in that they have two players who are good perimeter defenders: Wade and LeBron. If you force Dwyane Wade to expend a lot of energy on the defensive end, especially early, it will be that much harder for him on the offensive end, especially at the end of games, and we saw this in Game 1.
Finally, the Bulls need to get Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer going early. Both of these players are guys who cannot do much on the defensive end, and become useless on the court if they are not on. Yesterday especially you saw Kyle Korver being switched onto LeBron and Wade at the end, and he just doesn't have the physical abilities to keep up with those guys, even though he tries hard. If you can get both of these guys going early, Boozer can ease the load on Rose earlier in the game and Korver can help space the floor effectively later in the game. If both of these players are off however, there's no point having them on the floor.
Even though the Heat have wrestled homecourt advantage from the Bulls, I would not be worried if I was a Bulls fan. The Bulls blew out the Heat while playing slightly above average and narrowly lost after playing one of the worst games that I have seen in all of my years of following the Bulls.
If the shooting issues don't go away, then yes, we may have a problem on our hands. However since the Bulls are not a team that relies on jump shooting for their whole offense and since they have players who can get to the basket with ease, you have to expect that they come back out and shoot, even if not great, much better than what they shot in Game 2. You can't forget that Chicago had one of the best road records in the league too, so there's no need to panic yet.
Despite the split, my confidence in the Bulls to win this series or possibly go even farther has not wavered.
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