No one saw this coming. The Bulls destroying the Heat in the second half. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combining for only 33 points. Taj Gibson throwing down to highlight film dunks, one in the face of Dwyane Wade. Derrick Rose… wait. Nothing surprising about Derrick Rose and his greatness. How good are the Bulls on defense? Even better than you thought they were.
Lets begin with the less important stuff, with a guy who’s very important to the Bulls. Taj Gibson. Nine points and 7 rebounds, but it felt like a lot more. The Chicago Bulls’ bench scored 28 points, nothing out of this world, but they did outscore the Heat’s bench 28-15. It wasn’t only that. Chicago’s depth put a lot of pressure on the Heat to switch back to LeBron and Wade, which didn’t work. Above all, was Gibson. His two dunks – one on Wade in the second quarter when things were pretty tight, even a big in Miami’s favor, and the second in the fourth, kind of putting a huge stamp on the Bulls’ 103-82 victory. The Bulls lost nothing when the 25 year old steeped onto the floor instead of Boozer.
Next up? Bigs. Yeah, Chris Bosh scored 30 points. The Bulls put so much focus on help when Lebron James and Dwyane Wade had the ball, Bosh had a lot of free space to move and wobble. The problem is he was all alone on defense. Chicago crashed the offensive glass and the Heat again looked like one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. The constant double ups on Rose meant there wasn’t any help from LeBron James on the board. Noah alone grabbed 8 on the offensive glass, finishing with 14 rebounds. Chicago finished with 19 offensive rebounds. The play between Boozer and Noah, the Gibson-Asik reserve combo – the Heat have no answer for that.
Loul Deng – had an awful start. Tried too hard to score on LeBron, and got blocked or stripped every time. I hate to see players trying to be something they’re not. When he started penetrating and kicking out, setting screen and getting open on corners, Chicago were much better, and Deng finished with 21 points. His defense was great for the first moment. His long arms plus the help he got on LeBron James was probably the biggest factor in favor of the Bulls defensively. This was the sixth time James scored 15 points or less in a playoff game. All six times ended up with him losing the ball game.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade need to stop hogging the ball so much. Yeah, its better for Miami to have them with the ball. They’re the only guys who can create stuff. The problem is Chicago’s constant pressure on the ball. Nothing gets uncontested, no easy points, even in fast breaks. The slow or hardly existent ball movement from Miami was just lapped up by the Bulls, forcing 16 turnovers.
Here we get to the MVP, Derrick Rose. Right now, the best basketball player in the world. Opinions and momentum change very quickly in the playoffs. Each game is a new story. Still, right now, Rose is playing better than anyone. He didn’t force himself on the game, made huge shots just at the right moments. Not every penetration and drive resulted in baskets. Joel Anthony had a great block on Rose after a great sidestepping from the point guard. That didn’t deter him one bit, and he just hurt the Heat in other ways. He broke their double teams with great ball movement, something Chicago did very well no matter what lineup was on the court. When a player scored 28 points with decent field goal percentage (10-22) and you feel he was having an OK night, that’s something special. Rose is special.
Spoelstra couldn’t do anything without Thibodeau answering him. Going small didn’t work very well. Chicago’s depth just made it harder and harder for the Heat to find a hole, a way to break the Bulls. Eventually, they got broken themselves. With James and Wade having terrible nights (12-32 combined), Bosh’s 30-9 night couldn’t save them. Playing this isolation kind of game, hoping James or Wade will conjure up some magic won’t do against the best defensive team in the NBA. Simple double ups while leaving huge gaping openings on the D while Rose is slicing through just won’t do. The Heat need to do better – Spoelstra may be the one responsible for game planning and preparation, but the pressure is on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to respond and execute.