Stopping opponents in the paint and off the offensive glass has been a problem for the Miami Heat in recent weeks. Against a resilient Chicago Bulls team, it was too much for the NBA champions to overcome.
Not the most impressive of seasons from the Chicago Bulls, especially when you look at their offensive numbers or their offense in general. Still, when their defense is playing like Tom Thibodeau expects it to preform, they’re good for a win against anyone in the league, including the NBA champions with LeBron James continuing his hot streak.
James was a question mark before the game, going up with a bruised knee. He finished with 30 points and 6 rebounds but only 2 assists and did look limited, especially when driving to the basket. He settled too often for three pointers, finishing with 1-5 from beyond the arc, while missing only 2 of his two-point field goal attempts.
For the Bulls, it was Carlos Boozer with one of those rare games in which he justifies his huge contract. Boozer has been on a roll over the last four games (3-4 from the Bulls), notching up his fourth consecutive double-double. He grabbed six offensive boards out of his 12 and scored 27 points. When Boozer plays this well, it opens up so much for the Bulls on the outside, and erased his defensive defeciencies. Problem is he usually goes into slumber after big games.
The other big man on the boards was obviously Joakim Noah, who also finished with 12 rebounds and six on the offensive glass. Noah added 13 points and 4 assists along with some excellent defense, allowing the Miami Heat only 34 points in the paint while the Bulls thrived with 46. Locking down the paint forced the Heat to take bad shots, finishing with only 5-20 from beyond the arc, as Shane Battier also finished with 1-5 on a very bad night for the Heat who were simply outworked by a team that looked much better prepared for the game.
We understand how important rebounding is, and it showed tonight. I don’t know if that small ball is going to work against us. Not with guys like Carlos Boozer in the game.
The Bulls had an offensive rebounding percentage of 44.2% against the Heat, their highest in any game this season. Carlos Boozer led the way with 16 points in the paint and six offensive rebounds, his second-most in a game this season. The small ball may give the Heat some advantages on the offensive side and especially teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Boston Celtics, but it has been very punishing on them when it comes to protecting the rim in certain games this season, which completely offsets their whole defensive approach.
The Heat, who are last in the NBA in rebounds, had won four games this season when outrebounded by 15 or more. They lost 28-48 in this one against the Bulls, who improved to 18-13.
For Chicago, this is the only recipe for wins this season – work, work, work. There’s no one reliable player to rely on to put up big numbers each night. It’s always going to be about great defense, out-hustling, rebounding and working their opponents, at least until Derrick Rose comes back.