NBA Playoffs 2011: 5 Keys to Help Chicago Bulls Beat Miami Heat in Game 3
The 2011 Eastern Conference finals has definite star power.
You have reigning and past league MVP's squaring off against each other.
You have franchises that have championship skins in the wall who are looking to add more.
But the keys to who wins this third and important game may not be so obvious.
A victory today would help Chicago regain home-court advantage in the series and put them on the right side of a significant stat. Winners of Game 3's win seven-game series 76 percent of the time.
5. Kyle Korver's Shooting Percentage
Kyle Korver is a complimentary player. He plays less than 20 minutes per game.
But he fits in a specific role on this Chicago Bulls roster: Off-the-bench outside shooter.
While Korver may not score a truck-load of points, his shooting touch for the game seems to spell good or bad news for Chicago.
In the Bulls' nine 2011 postseason victories, Korver has connected on 30-for-56 (45 percent) from the floor, including 15-for-29 (52 percent) from three-point-range
In the Bulls' four playoff loses this year, Korver has shot 8-for-30 (27 percent) from the field, including 5-for-16 (31 percent) from beyond the arc.
In Game 3, the Bulls will need the spark that comes from Korver coming in and hitting a couple shots to either help them build a lead or start a comeback.
4. Taj Gibson's Blocked Shots
Taj Gibson brings energy and athleticism off the bench to the Bulls frontcourt.
He usually plays around 20 minutes per game, but he usually makes a difference when he gets on the floor.
In stating that, Gibson's Blocked Shots stat is a key that may not be surprising. The surprising part may be that it is just the opposite of what you think.
Rather than stating that the more blocks Gibson gets, the better chance the Bulls have to win, I am going to go the other direction.
Gibson's best shot-blocking performances in this year's playoffs have come in their four defeats.
He has blocked three shots twice and four shots once in the Bulls four playoff loses.
My point: the reason he has had more shot-blocks in those games is because of breakdown's in the Bulls perimeter and interior defense.
Gibson, in many cases, has had to leave his man to stop someone else's man from getting all the way to the rim.
Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau will never tell Gibson (or any other Bull, for that matter) to block less shots.
He will be hoping that Gibson doesn't have so many chances to throw someone's floater into the seats because they have beaten their man and got into the lane.
3. Carlos Boozer's Free Throw Attempts
For a power forward, Carlos Boozer does not get to the line very much.
But when he is being aggressive and taking it to his opponents, he gets there more often.
In the eight playoff games this year that Boozer has scored in double figures, he is 25-for-30 from the free-throw line.
In the five games that he has come up short of double figures, he has only attempted five free throws.
The Bulls need Boozer to be assertive and forceful in Game 3. They do not need him to settle for mid-range jumpers.
They need him to take it strong to the basket and get to the line.
Because when he does, he plays better, and he makes his free throws (.829 for the 2011 postseason).
2. Joakim Noah's Assist Total
Joakim Noah is a versatile, multi-talented center who can do so many things to help the Bulls win ball games.
He is relentless on the offensive glass. He blocks shots. And he can defend multiple positions on the floor.
Noah is also one of the better passing bigs in the league.
He kicks the ball out from the post to the perimeter. He finds open teammates who can spot up for open looks.
Watch and see in Game 3. If Noah has three assists or more, it's gonna be a good night.
He had four assists in the Bulls Game 1 drubbing of the Heat.
He only had one assist when the Heat beat up the Bulls in Game 2.
1. Hold James and Wade to Their Average
You might not think that is a very great goal to set going into Game 3.
Even if the Bulls are successful in keeping LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to their playoff scoring averages, they would still be putting up a combined 50 points.
Usually if two players from an opponent hang "half-a-hundred" on you, it's not good news.
But....James will be playing in a Game 3 for the fourth time in his career in which the series is tied 1-1.
In his three previous games, James has averaged 40.0 PPG, the highest of anyone over the last 15 seasons.
Holding James to his normal 25 may not normally be viewed as a huge accomplishment.
But in comparison with him putting up 40 or more, limiting him to two dozen or so doesn't sound bad, does it?
Dwyane Wade hasn't been too shabby in Game 3's either. He is averaging over 32 PPG in four such games.