At some point, you can’t cover up for all those missing players, including Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, with a point guard who is too small to make a useful defensive player. Tom Thibodeau looked at his bench and saw players he normally wouldn’t have used, but with Nate Robinson finally have the kind of game a lot of people were predicting he’d have at some point, there wasn’t much of a choice.
Robinson missed all 12 field goal attempts as he attempted tough jumper after tough jumper. He averaged 15 points in the first three games in the series, peaking in the fourth quarter of the first one, ending up with 27 points. But not playing smart, or fundamental basketball, comes at a cost, and at some point, lucky shots and bounces stop happening. Robinson and the Bulls had no ball movement or anything resembling an organized offense, and fell apart at home in one of the worst performances in franchise history.
How bad? A franchise low 65 points, while shooting 25.7% from the field and 11.7% from beyond the arc. The Bulls scored nine points in the third quarter and only 42 through the first three. The Heat’s defense realized that trapping and moving around is good enough to stop a team that is too lazy and untrained when it comes to motion and ball movement. No spacing, not thinking. Simply jacking up shots and hoping that offensive rebounding is going to save them.
So the Bulls grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, but hardly got anything from put-back situations, averaging only 0.85 points per possession, while getting blocked again and again by Chris Bosh and a Miami Heat team that were simply waiting for the Bulls to grab offensive rebounds and shoot. The Heat let the air out of the Bulls’ sails from the first moment by trapping and challenging any easy pass Chicago were trying to make. Soon enough, it was simply about taking desperate shots, which ended up creating the huge disparity and pathetic offensive numbers.
Back to the drawing board. The Bulls are out of ink, crayons and oil paint. Without Kirk Hinrich back on the floor, there’s no chance of putting up a decent offensive performance that has nothing to do with grit and luck. As we’ve seen in two of their losses against Miami, those are only good enough for a limited time.
But the surprising thing was watching Robinson simply quit. Not on his team, but on his own personal struggles. After missing 12 shots, Robinson decided he isn’t shooting anymore, and passed up even the open shots he was faced with. The Chicago Bulls don’t have any other player who can create points on his own, and were left having no one to give them points out of nothing, but also without any kind of ball movement that might generate a different kind of offense.
It doesn’t feel fair sometimes, but staying healthy is part of the NBA. The Bulls relied on defense and grit to get them through. They’ve kept the Heat on less than 90 points twice in this series. It’s probably the best they could have asked for. Offense was always going to be something of long shot. It turned out it got killed by relying to many times on those long shots.