NBA Playoffs 2011: Five Ways the Chicago Bulls Still Win the Eastern Conference
What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, the Chicago Bulls handily took game one of the Eastern Conference finals over the Miami Heat, 103-82. Now, one week later, the Bulls find themselves reeling, down 2-1 in the series after back-to-back double-digit defeats.
For the first time, the Heat are finally playing up to their potential. The Big Three has been exactly that
Chris Bosh’s 34 point performance last night silenced all of his critics and showed just how dominant Miami can be.
Miami has all of the momentum. The Big Three have played up to their potential, the likes of Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem have made key contributions, and they have locked down Chicago’s offense with stifling defense.
The Bulls are down, by they are by no means out. Undoubtedly, adjustments need to be made. If anyone in the NBA could come back and knock off the Heat, it’s these Bulls.
Here’s five ways they can keep their season alive and win this series.
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The Bulls had one of the league’s stingiest defenses, as opponents shot a league-low 43 percent from the field and averaged 91.3 points, topped only by the Boston Celtics.
This dominating defense has gone MIA in the last two games against Miami. The Heat shot 51 percent in Game Three after shooting 47 percent in Game Two. The Bulls cannot win this series if Miami is hitting at that rate.
Bulls defenders bit on shot fakes, got up in the air and either gave up layups or fouled the shooter all night Sunday. Omer Asik, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah were all guilty of this.
Yes, the Heat are an extremely talented bunch, but Chicago's misreading of South Beach's offense is doing them in right now.
The defense Charles Barkley referred to as being “the best he’s ever seen” needs to return.
Derrick Rose Blossoms Once Again
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Derrick Rose has been having his way with the opposition all year. He’s the MVP for a reason. Whether it be by driving to the hole, kicking it out to a teammate for an assist, or stepping back to hit a three, Rose has found ways to dominate.
He just hasn’t been the same thus far against Miami. Uncharacteristic turnovers, mediocre shooting, and poor fouls have hampered Rose throughout the series.
The Heat have minimized his effectiveness when driving the lane, a key venue for his offense.
Rose must improve. He needs to be much more efficient with the ball in his hands, limiting turnovers and improving shot selection.
MVPs make those around them better. Rose has received minimal contributions from teammates thus far. If he wants the Bulls to win this series, he needs to improve the team's game, not just his own play
"Bench Mob" Regains Its Form
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In Game One, the Bulls bench outscored Miami’s 28-15. Omer Asik was a force defensively; Ronnie Brewer lived up to his billing; and Taj Gibson provided two of the best dunks of the playoffs in an explosive fourth quarter showing.
The last two games Miami’s back-ups that have gotten the upper hand. Udonis Haslem has been a force, scoring 21 points over the last two games. That type of production from anyone on the Heat roster not named Bosh, James, or Wade is unacceptable.
Aside from Gibson, every player off the Bulls bench needs to play better than they have so far this series.
Asik needs to be stout down low. Brewer needs to slash and play effective defense. Kyle Korver needs to find his stroke from long range. C.J. Watson needs to be a spark-plug when Rose takes a breather.
The energy provided by the bench mob has fueled Chicago’s success all year long. It’s been severely lacking the last two games.
The outlook for Chicago is bleak at best if this group of role players continues to struggle.
Win the Battle of the Bigs
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Chris Bosh is on fire. His 34 points in Game Three led all scorers. He was by far the best player on the court. For once, Carlos Boozer wasn’t too shabby either, posting 26 points to go along with 17 rebounds.
Despite Boozer’s improved play, he was still outdone by his Miami counterpart.
Considering the Heat have Lebron and D-Wade, the Bulls can’t afford to be outplayed by Miami’s bigs as well.
The Bulls can’t let Bosh continue to score at will. Boozer and Joakim Noah need to limit him, while also making it difficult for Miami to score in the paint, just like Miami has done to the Bulls.
In a series featuring Lebron James, Derrick Rose, and Dwayne Wade, it’s hard to believe that the likes of Bosh and Joel Anthony have been the decisive factors. When you take into account their defensive presence along with Bosh’s offensive output, however, it’s easy to see why the Heat have the advantage.
Boozer and Noah need to best their counterparts down in the paint for the Bulls to win.
A Renwed Sense of Pride and Urgency Kicks in
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Tom Thibodeau coaches a proud bunch; that pride needs to be apparent in Game Four.
A proud team will not stand for getting shellacked on national television for a third straight game. A proud team will not accept being out-played in every facet of the game again. A proud team will come out swinging in Game Four, sticking it right back to the Heat.
The Bulls have been doubted all year. The notion that they are finished is nothing new for them. All year long they have proved their detractors wrong. In order for that to continue, this team must refuse to be defeated. If they play as determined as they have throughout the year, this series is theirs.
The Bulls are more than capable of imposing their will on the Heat just as the Heat have done to them the last two games. If they are indeed as good a team as many in Chicago believe, they will play their most inspired basketball of the year on Tuesday night en route to tying up the series.