Kudos to the Chicago Bulls for a good run in the 2011 NBA Playoffs; in many eyes, they exceeded expectations.
They still had issues though, especially when it came to scoring points at crucial times at the end of games. Many point to the fact that they are a defensive-minded team, and that is what their personality as a team is all about.
Being defensive-minded though doesn't have a lot to do with your offensive execution at the end of games. So why did they struggle in this area?
First of all, this was nothing new for Chicago.
Their late-game offense was centered around MVP point guard Derrick Rose, but looking at their roster, that need not be so.
With the Bulls' failures on offense in late-game situations, the fans and the media blamed Carlos Boozer, which was convenient.
He was supposed to be the 20-10 guy who could balance the offense and take them to the next level. That didn't happen though, so of course he was to blame.
Not so fast though—is he really to blame?
When you look at how the Bulls run their sets on offense, Boozer is at the high post,—not the low post—and most of the time there isn't a concerted effort to get him the ball in the post where he can operate.
That doesn't happen all the time, but more often than not Boozer is left to get what he can off the boards or what Rose can create by going to the hoop.
Using him in that way is an abuse of the talent that he has. Boozer needs to have plays run specifically for him to be isolated in the post so he can assert himself and be the offensive powerhouse he is.
Chicago could actually run some of the offense through him. That would take some of the pressure off Rose, and they would be less perimeter-oriented as a team.
By not using Boozer's skills he has demonstrated in his career, the coaching staff pretty much ensured he would be inept to some degree in the playoffs. He was not in any kind of groove, and he looked uncomfortable on the offensive end for much of the season.
Boozer did fight and run plays the way they were drawn up, and he didn't complain. That is a testament to the type of team guy he is.
Make no mistake about it though, he has not been used correctly by the coaching staff, and that is on Tom Thibodeau.
As the coach, he has the responsibility to put his players in the best position to succeed for the sake of the team. The Bulls have a MVP, a small forward who can score and a perennial All-Star on their roster. They have what it takes to not be anemic on offense with a low-post threat, and a guy who can score at will and get to the basket.
There is no excuse for not getting it done at the end of games, especially playoff games. Boozer should be made to shoulder his part of the load, and I believe he can.
The coaching staff needs to stop being so structured in their approach to the offense though.
Their attention to detail when it comes to the defense is great, and they don't have a lot of issues getting stops. Thibodeau knows what he is doing on defense, and he gets maximum effort out of his guys in that regard. The Bulls have a championship-caliber defense.
But if he or his staff can't find a way to unleash one of the best post players in the league, then they need to hire someone who can.
Chicago didn't get Boozer to just be a part of the offense—they got him to be a difference-maker. Carlos Boozer doesn't deserve to be blamed for their offensive shortcomings in the playoffs. The coaching staff does.
In my book, he should have been on the floor at the end of Game 5 against the Heat as well. He may not be the best defender, but Boozer can score and rebound—at least he did before he came to the Bulls.
Chicago has Rose, Deng and Boozer in the starting lineup. You can't tell me the coaching staff needs more than that with the way they play defense.
I am not saying Thibodeau is not a good coach; he is just good on the side of the ball that is his strength. If that doesn't change, or they don't add another coach who can fix their offensive woes so Rose doesn't break down, they will be destined to struggle in these playoff-type situations.
If they don't learn from how they put Boozer in a failing situation, the Chicago Bulls will be doomed to the same fate as this year.