It would only be fair for this seesaw battle to go as long as it could with a couple more overtimes thrown in, a few more Kevin Garnett F-bombs to the Chicago bench, a few more Derrick Rose unbelievable drives, and a couple more clutch shots from Paul Pierce.
In a crucial game five, Boston won a crazy game with a contoversial ending with a non-flagrant foul call on Brad Miller. Say what you will on whether you believed Miller should have recieved two shots and the ball or not, but the fact of the matter is that the Bulls need to win game six or they will watch the Celtics celebrate on the United Center floor.
After watching all five of these games, I have come up with the five most important keys for the Bulls to complete in order to win the next game and then the series itself.
1. Keep the ball out of Rajan Rondo’s hands
Ever since Kevin Garnett went down, Rajan Rondo has been the new floor leader for the Celtics, and has done an outstanding job in the series thus far, averaging a triple double.
The fact of the matter is this key could have been titled “PLAY DEFENSE” and I would not have needed an explanation. Boston has been able to get off any shot they have wanted with ease, with Chicago’s defense nowhere to be found.
Chicago’s rebounds stats have been fantastic, but I am starting to think it is because they are crashing the boards too much. Back to Rondo—he is the only guard that Boston has capable of running the point.
Stephon Marbury still looks lost on the court and has not meshed well and Tony Allen does not deserve to be on the court at all. Eddie House is a great role player and has taken the role of “James Posey-lite," but will not run the offense in any positive way.
The fact is that Derrick Rose needs to clamp down on defense and, off of screens, the Bulls must double Rondo and let Glen Davis or Kendrick Perkins beat them from 17 feet out.
Rondo has penetrated the Bulls defense way too much and it needs to be cut down or the Celtics will continue to get shots at will.
2. Reduce the Minutes of Tyrus Thomas
-41. That is Tyrus Thomas’s +/- in the five games against the Celtics in the playoffs.
I am not saying that Thomas needs to be benched all the way and see no minutes, but other than blocks he is not contributing much to the team and is being overmatched by Perkins and Davis.
Thomas gives up way too much in the post and, while he is averaging over three blocks per game, gives up easy baskets too many times. Offensively, with the exception of overtime of game one, he has been average and really has not added anything more than Joakim Noah or Brad Miller could not on second chance points.
He is averaging 28.1 minutes per game and this number needs to go down to about 19 or 20. Brad Miller should receive these extra eight or nine minutes as I think he gives the Bulls a veteran presence on the court nowhere to be found in the starting lineup.
3. More Isolations for Derrick Rose
In this series, Derrick Rose has played his best basketball, A) on the fast break and B) from the top of the key on an isolation.
As quick as Rajan Rondo is in the passing lanes and on pickpockets, his man-to-man defense is not as good and Rose is as quick as they come. In the series, Rose’s outside shooting has struggled and his shots inside the paint have decreased in attempts.
Getting Rose to drive more will also free up more opportunites for Noah and Thomas to crash the boards and get second chance points, something that has also been key in the series.
4. Keep the fast pace game and outrun the Celtics
At the beginning of the series, I was absolutely befuddled that the Bulls were trying to outrun such a good defensive team in the Celtics. I figured that these low percentage, outside shots would lead to blowout wins for Boston, but I was wrong.
With young, athletic, big men like Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah, the Bulls seem to tire less than the Celtics do in games. While the Bulls really only go seven deep, they have a nice rotation going and are able to run the break.
In the Bulls wins this series, the teams have averaged just under 112 points per team per game. When the Bulls lose, teams are averaging 106 points per team per game. With the Bulls lack of a post presence and inability to shake the pesky Celtics defenders, shots off the break have made this series close and they must continue to do so to win it all.
Chicago has averaged 16.2 fast break points in the series as compared to Boston’s 13.
5. Keep the Celtics Out of the Paint
In a way, this key sums up a couple different ones, but I will give this its own due. Boston has averaged 46.4 points in the paint in the series, and those points have come way too easy.
I liked what the Bulls did on a few possessions by bringing a guard around the back side to swipe the ball out of Kendrick Perkins’ hand, which led to steals and those all too important fast break points.
They must continue to do so because Glen Davis thinks he has a better jump shot than he really does and Rondo does not have much confidence in that shot. Rondo has gone to the hoop way too easy in the series, so making him take jump shots will lead to less points and less confidence for the Celtics’ PG.
Other than Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, there are not a lot of good jump shooters on the Celtics roster.