After Game 1 people took to one of two sides. The first: The win was a fluke. The Bulls got lucky, LeBron wasn’t aggressive and that’s the only one they’ll win the rest of the way. The second: The Bulls’ defense is the best in the NBA and they have a real chance to kick off the Heat.
After Game 2 the bandwagon tipped back to Miami and people fell back to earth and realized a depleted roster without many scorers don’t have a good chance of beating Miami.
Now the series touches down in Chicago and they have their home-crowd behind them. Chicago desperately needs a big game at home in the next few nights. Losing both will most definitely result in either a 5 or 6 game route. For Chicago, who is essentially playing a starting lineup of role players, the home-crowd will be huge for them. Role players play better when they’re at home; it’s just what happens. Underdogs play better with their home-crowd as well so although they are depleted their crowd should provide them with an edge.
However, like Jeff Van Gundy keeps saying emotion only takes you so far. The difference between Game 1 and Game 2 was rebounds and points in the paint. Sure, Miami hit a couple more threes in Game 2 but the real point of damage caused by the Heat was their dominance down low. According to ESPN.com, Miami had 33 drives to the basket – good for 45 points. LeBron was ultra aggressive in Game 2 from the beginning and that put pressure on the entire Chicago defense.
The entire formula for effective Miami offense is drive, put pressure on the defense and either dunk or kick out to the flurry of shooters on the perimeter. The Heat’s shooters are the luckiest in the league as the open opportunities are limitless as a result of the penetration of James and Wade. However, to beat the Heat you have to force them to hit threes instead of giving them points inside. In the Bulls’ Game 1 win, they forced Miami to shoot 7-24 from the three-point line – good for 29%. In Game 2, Miami went 9-18. LeBron and Wade are two of the best finishers in the league and they’ll score in the paint or go to the line if they’re given enough room. You can live with the shooters of Miami hitting every shot, shots will eventually miss but layups won’t if they’re given continuously. That’s essentially the recipe for Chicago. They need to pack the paint above all else and force the Heat to shoot threes. It’s not ideal, as Miami can shoot threes consistently but you can’t stop the three and pack the paint at the same time.
Pace will be huge for the Bulls for the rest of the series as well. Chicago can’t afford to play a fast styled game against Miami. They are obviously deadly in transition and with Chicago’s scoring difficulties they need to honor every last second of their available 24 each time down the floor for them to win. In Game 1, Chicago scored 7 fast-break points to Miami’s 9. In Game 2, they scored 2 fast-break points to Miami’s 20. The Bulls can’t afford to waste possessions. They are depleted and really besides Nate Robinson and Bellinelli there isn’t anyone else to be a spark plug offensively. They have to get easy shots every time down the floor.
Nate Robinson needs a new jolt in Chicago. He was the key in their victory in Game 1 but was almost a no-show offensively in Game 2. He has the ability to put points up in a hurry and he needs to. Most of all, their 15 million dollar a year max-contract guy (Carlos Boozer) hasn’t done anything in this series. Against a team who is known for playing small ball and lacking big bodies, Boozer should be having a field day. He’s averaging 7 and 5 on the season and without him scoring down low, the Bulls have to rely solely on perimeter scoring, which we’ve established they lack. Boozer needs to step up. If they slow the game down and guard the paint, their defense will take care of itself but their offense needs a spark. Robinson, Bellinelli and even Butler can only do so much. Boozer is supposed to be an all-star. That’s what he was signed as in 2010, so it’s time for him to step up.
The series is going to continue to be extremely physical as it has clearly picked up recently but the Bulls need to keep their cool. They can’t afford to lose composure or get into foul trouble – they already lack bodies as it is. Miami is the team who isn’t used to playing supremely physical so it’s their playing field for the most part.