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Tag:Tom Thibodeau
Posted on: May 24, 2011 5:39 pm
 

LiveChat: Heat-Bulls Conference Finals Game 4

Join us at 8:30 p.m. EST for Heat-Bulls Game 4. We'll discuss such topics as:

There will inevitably be mid-90's video game references, as there were in Game 4 of Mavs-Thunder as well. Join us at 8 p.m. EST.


 
Posted on: May 24, 2011 9:09 am
 

Playoff Fix: Running of the Bulls

The Bulls need to run, rebound and stop LeBron James to tie the Eastern Conference Finals in Game 4. Piece of cake!

Posted by Matt Moore




One Big Thing: Both coaches are 100 percent dead set on making this series about speed, despite how good the transition defense is. The Bulls talked a lot about getting out and running in Game 3. They made good on that promise to a degree, scoring 16 points on 8-10 shooting in transition. But the Heat also wound up with 10 points on the fast break, meaning the Bulls' halfcourt offense would have to put in work. It of course couldn't, and we've got a 2-1 Miami advantage. With Omer Asik dealing with an injury issue, the Bulls have the luxury of smaller lineups to try and get up and down the floor. The idea was to get Carlos Boozer involoved in transition. But Boozer is very much a halfcourt offense guy. He's no longer a spring chicken, doesn't have great athleticism, and loves a jumpshot. So him being involved on the break is a little odd. Better to get Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah going as finishers off the attention Derrick Rose draws than aim for transition jumpers from Boozer. What's worse is this feels like a desperation adjustment from the Bulls. "We can't create offense in the halfcourt, grind-it-out way our play style suggests, so we'll just try and make up for it with 'easy' baskets." Maybe the Bulls do get out and run in Game 4, opening up opportunities for their shooters from ther perimeter using transition spacing. But it's hard to see how the Bulls are going to even the series without getting some more halfcourt offense help.

The X-Factor: C.J. Watson has been on a tight leash in this series, but he matches up rather well with the Heat defense. Watson has good outside shooting, can play on or off-ball, plays decent defense, and on the perimeter, can pump-fake and drive with a decent floater. Watson doesn't get much time because, well, Derrick Rose lives and breathes. But Watson could make a difference if played in tandem with Rose more, giving Rose a speedy backcourt partner who can space the floor. It means issues with rotations should Rose get tired, but at this point, we all know Thibodeau will be driving him into the ground regardless. Watson could make a difference if he can put in a double-figure socring performance with any efficiency.

The  Adjustment: Miami continues to struggle keeping the Bulls off the offensive glass, but they're chipping away at it. Udonis Haslem has made a huge impact, but also the Heat have run the Bulls off the three-point line, which has decreased the number of long rebounds. Still, the Bulls' best way to get back in this series is to get points off follows. Boozer was the big getter in Game 3, nabbing seven offensive boards. That's containable. If Chris Bosh can keep Boozer off the offensive glass and the Heat can keep up what they've been doing as the series goes along, they might take away the rebounding advantage. Do that and without an outlier shooting performance, the Bulls are sunk.

The Sticking Point: All the talk coming into the series was "Who's going to check Derrick Rose?" Well, the Heat have shown they have a pretty good plan for doing that with multiple guys, though the Heat expect Rose to break out at some point.  But here's a bigger one. "How do the Bulls defend LeBron at the end of games?" The Bulls threw multiple defenders at James all night in Game 3, hoping to put him in a slump. He wound up with ten assists, throwing pinpoint laser passes to open teammates. Then, when they Bulls peeled off to try and stop the other Heat players killing them, James stepped up and took advantage of the ISO situation. It has to be extremely frustrating for Luol Deng who has played phenomenal defense in this series for 3. 75 quarters each game, only to have James simply overcome it in that last bit of the game. The Bulls have to at some point make a statement, "LeBron James will not beat us in the fourth quarter." That has risky consequences, but nothing riskier than putting the possibility of a 3-1 hole for the Bulls in James' hand down the stretch, not with the way he's been closing out games.
Posted on: May 23, 2011 12:47 am
Edited on: May 23, 2011 1:12 am
 

Three keys for Chicago to extend East finals

The Chicago Bulls dropped Game 3 against the Miami Heat, falling behind in the Eastern Conference finals 2-1. What needs to change for the Bulls to extend this series? Posted by Ben Golliver.

derrick-rose-pissed

The Miami Heat not only won Game 3 on Sunday night, they took full control of their Eastern Conference finals series against the Chicago Bulls. In prevailing 96-85, Miami showed it was capable of playing defense as well as Chicago has played it all season and that it could find new ways to pick apart the Bulls with their three-headed monster attack. In turn, forward Chris Bosh delivered a game-high 34 points.

The Heat's win clearly sets up Game 4 as the swing game. Should Chicago prevail, this series is almost certainly going seven games. But if Miami should hold court at home? The Bulls would be faced with the prospect of winning three straight in an elimination scenario. Good luck with that.

Here's three things that need to happen for the pendulum of momentum to swing back the other way.

1. Derrick Rose needs to find his rhythm

Following Game 1, the post-game talk centered around how well Luol Deng and Chicago's team defense were able to contain LeBron James. In Game 3, especially during the second half, the same points apply for how Miami handled Derrick Rose. Clearly, he was frustrated and forced off of his game.

The Heat committed lots of bodies to the cause, doubling Rose, stepping into his driving lanes and remaining very active in the passing lanes as well. In handling the double teams, Rose said: "I've been trying to beat it with the pass, I have to be more aggressive."

Yes and no. While LeBron James helped seal the win by picking off a Rose crosscourt pass and taking it to the house over Kyle Korver, Rose also committed multiple turnovers by driving too hard into traffic, either losing control of the ball or getting hit with a player control foul. It's a bit of a paradox, but he needs to be both more aggressive and less aggressive simultaneously (if that's possible).

A return to controlled, timely aggression is probably the best way to put it. 

Here's a look at James' steal and finish in transition.




2. Backcourt scoring desperately needed

Rose's reads would be easier and his drives to the bucket more effective and productive if he was getting anything -- anything at all -- from his backcourt mates. Chicago guards not named Rose combined for 13 points on 5-14 shooting. Keith Bogans, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson also combined to attempt just four three-pointers in 63 minutes.

If you're wondering why there's no room in the paint, look no further than the fact that Luol Deng is the only player on the entire roster that approximates a floor-spacer right now. Like a football team with no deep threat option, the Bulls haven't made the Heat pay for overloading. It was the same story in Game 2: Deng took seven three-pointers while Bogans, Korver, Brewer and Watson combined to shoot 2-10 from deep. 

If those numbers don't change in a meaningful way, it doesn't matter how well Chicago plays defense. They're toast.

3. Energy differential

Both teams competed incredibly hard on Sunday night, and Chicago was hampered by the fact that Joakim Noah's activity level was hampered by early foul trouble, throwing their rotation off. Coaches always talk about who has the "edge," though, and in small ways it was Miami. Most obviously, it was the play of Bosh, who came out aggressive and never looked back, sizing up open shots and seizing the opportunity to take his defenders off the dribble. 

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau pointed to his team's failures to defend Bosh as a prime reason for the loss. In particular, he didn't like how his team closed out on Bosh once Miami's other players had attacked the paint. "We gave him too much space. We didn't challenge his shot properly. We didn't give the appropriate help ... You have to protect the paint and then get back out. I don't think we did that... We've got to get up and challenge their shots better. Rebounding was good, challenging their shots wasn't."

Carlos Boozer, Bosh's match-up, was no statistical slouch either, dumping in 26 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. But Bosh was simply a more impactful player in the fourth quarter, scoring eight straight points to help push Miami out of Chicago's reach.

The Bulls never gave up, but they didn't have enough activity, especially offensively, to pull the game back within reach.

"Our will wasn't there tonight," Rose concluded. It will need to be there in Game 4 or Miami can book its NBA Finals tickets. 
Posted on: May 22, 2011 6:56 pm
 

LiveChat: Heat-Bulls Conference Finals Game 3

Join us at 8:30 p.m. EST for Heat-Bulls Game 3 LiveChat. We'll discuss PEDs like Pez, and LeBron's "secret society." Chat at you then.

 
Posted on: May 22, 2011 2:58 am
 

Playoff Fix: It's Rose's turn

Derrick Rose needs to turn the Eastern Conference Finals around for the Bulls and step up as an MVP. 

Posted by Matt Moore





One Big Thing: Derrick Rose has to kill it. Rose has been unable to be his MVP self in this series thanks to stellar defense from Miami. But Rose is going to have to find ways to press the issue and get the first step to the rim. Rose has been trying to let the rest of the offense steps up as the Heat defense swarms him, but the Bulls can't hit the broad side of a barn right now. Rose has to come out early and be aggressive. If that means the pull-up jumper when Chalmers goes under the screen, so be it. If that means knocking down perimeter shots, which isn't really Rose's strength at this point, that's what he's got to do. The Chicago offense can't open up opportunities for Rose. Rose is going to have to open them up for others. If Rose starts off aggressive, the Heat defense will have to overreact to try and prevent a huge game from the MVP, which will create shots for Kyle Korver and Luol Deng, among others. 

The X-Factor: Mario Chalmers is probably due for a decent game. Don't get confused, Chalmers is radically outmatched in this series, regardless of who he's defending or who's defending him. But due to the attention the Big 3 receives, Chalmers is going to have opportunities. Chalmers has also done well surprising opposing offenses with his ball pressure, forcing turnovers. Knocking down open shots and creating easy buckets off of turnovers is the most you can expect from Chalmers, and if any time is great for him to do so, a key Game 3 with the Bulls looking to make adjustments after a disappointing Game 2, desperate for a win is a great chance. Chalmers has more athleticism than Bibby, but surprisingly Bibby has played decent defense on Derrick Rose while Chalmers has been an outright disaster. But surely Rio has one good game in this series. Game 3 could make it an impactful one. 

The Adjustment: Tom Thibodeau has opted, to no one's surprise, to stick with defensive lineups in this series. The idea is to create a cold war, a long, hard conflict of inches between two stellar defenses with the Bulls winning out as its what they do best. But the Heat offense is superior to the Bulls on most nights, so as the Heat corner the options originally presented by Chicago, Thibodeau has to go to more offensive weapons. Whether that means more Carlos Boozer or more Kyle Korver remains to be seen. It almost certainly won't be both, but one of the two needs to give Chicago a better run of efficiency. The Bulls can win with defense. They just have to have enough offense to give that defense the chance to win it for them.

The Sticking Point: The Bulls blew out the Heat in Game 1, the Heat flew by the Bulls in the closing minutes of Game 2. Things are unlikely to open up and an already ugly series is likely to only get uglier. Don't be surprised if things get chippy. This series is begging for a fight with Haslem and Taj Gibson both emotional difference makers for their teams. Joakim Noah is a constant agitator and LeBron James keeps flirting with conflict. The Bulls are desperate. The Heat are indignant. An already bloody series is going to add some bruises in Game 3.
Posted on: May 21, 2011 2:49 pm
Edited on: May 21, 2011 2:57 pm
 

Meet LeBron James, Heat Closer

LeBron James has become the closer for the Heat as they look to take a 2-1 series advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday against the Bulls

Posted by Matt Moore




The questions began being asked as soon as the smoke from the Miami Triad's hyper-celebratory introductory event had cleared, literally. When you've got three All-Stars, three of the top ten players in the NBA (as of last season anyway) on the same team, the question's pretty natural. You expect them to be in the playoffs, which means close games, which begs this query:

"Who's going to take the last shot for the Heat?"

It was a storyline that continued throughout the season, particularly when the Heat were clanging last-second shot after last-second shot. Their biggest Achilles' heel throughout the year has been figuring out how to get the guy who needs the ball an opportunity to win games. It wasn't just figuring out which of James or Wade, (and sure, Bosh, why not, even though no one thought of him as closer) should be the one handling the rock, it was about how to set them up, whether to run the pick and roll, where they should attack and when. It was a mess. Consistently, from the beginning though, the Heat had their story to the press: "Whoever has the best opportunity." It wasn't who was open, it was about whoever had the best opportunity. They kept that message up. When LeBron James struggled more than the others in knocking down shots at the buzzer or late in games, the popular opinion rose to the unknown. "It should be Dwyane Wade," they said, "he's been the guy in Miami for years and has a ring! This is Wade's team!" Which is ridiculous, of course. Wade may have that ring, but he and James are on equal footing. Still, with all the bricks LeBron had made in the final seconds throughout the year, they could have built a university to study the question of who else should get the ball besides him.

Then a funny thing happened.

LeBron became "The Closer." 

His last real failure in the clutch was against Philadelphia, having his final shot blocked by Elton Brand that would have helped the Heat sweep the Sixers. Huge failure that it was, it took the Heat a whole other 48 minutes of play time to finish off the Sixers, who were outmatched from the start. But that blocked shot echoed the same storyline. "LeBron isn't clutch." And let's be clear, that wasn't some media-conceived fairytale. James was terrible in the final moments of games decided by five points or less. He shot just 43.6 percent in those situations. To put that in perspective, Mo Willilams, James' running mate in Cleveland had a similar number of attempts and made more.  He was simply not good in the biggest of moments. It seemed like that regular season calamity was going to carry over into the postseason, and if that was the case, how were the Heat going to advance? 

Except then in the Boston series, when the Heat needed James most, he absolutely dominated the closing stretches of games. While Celtics fans trusted in James' failures to repeat themselves against the team many felt made him "quit" the year before, James took over... on both sides of the ball. His defense fueled his offense and his offense fueled his defense. James closed out the Celtics by scoring ten straight points.  The steal and slam off of Paul Pierce was the exclamation point. The drive-by layup was simply the underline or highlight or some other editing mechanism on a statement already etched in black ink. 

But sure, James had one good game. Could he do it again?

Then in Game 2 versus the Bulls, it was once again James stepping up. He vanquished Paul Pierce, the Celtics' closer in Game 5. In Game 2, he guarded the MVP Derrick Rose, who did not score as the Heat put the game away.  And on the other side, James scored nine of the Heat's final 13, including pull-up threes and dagger jumpers. And when James gets that jumper falling, there's simply no way to stop him, the same as it is with Derrick Rose most times. 

ESPN dug through some numbers and found that James has used over 52 percent of the "clutch" possessions for the Heat in the playoffs. His PER in those situations, per 36 minutes is over 40. If you're not familiar with the statistic, the baseline is 15, anything over 20 is great. James' is a 40. He's not just producing efficient shooting, he's doing it all. Dwyane Wade may be able to pull off the same kinds of circus shots, but James' overall production is off the charts, and as unbelievable as it may sound given their positions and reputations, James is a better three-point shooter, especially lately. 

But the best part of this partnership is that Wade won't be demanding the ball. As long as Wade wins, he's happy. And he's seen enough of James to trust him to put the ball in the basket, even from the perimeter. James' three-pointer is often criticized as we demand that he use that insane athleticism and huge frame to drive time after time, but the reality is that James has shot a decent 34 percent in the playoffs. That's not great. What is great? James is shooting 50 percent from the arc in his last three playoff games. As he told the Miami Herald, there's a time when he trusts it, and he's got Wade's support to trust his outside shot. 
 
“Early in the game, we didn’t want to settle for those outside threes,” James said. “It was there late [in Game 2] and [Mike] Bibby set a good screen for me. The shot was there, so I took it.”

James pushed the Heat’s lead to five with a midrange jumper. No apologies this time. James’ late-game offense tipped the series’ momentum in Miami’s favor.

“LeBron was really big down the stretch and hit the shots we needed,” Wade said. “He also guarded [Derrick Rose]. His three was really big. That’s why we put the ball in his hands. He’s going to make the big plays.”
via LeBron James embraces role of closer for Miami Heat - Miami Heat - MiamiHerald.com.

It makes a certain amount of sense that this switch has occurred. The first act of James' career foretold an unstoppable stream of MVPs and championship rings, the next "Greatest Ever" candidate.  Then that script flipped and he wound up as the questioned "quitter" who failed in the clutch, didn't shake the other team's hand after a series loss, failed time and time again and then bailed on his squad for nicer weather and buddy buddy teammates. He was the un-clutch villian everyone loved to root against and rejoiced when he confirmed their belief in his failure. Now he's flipping it again, dominating down the stretch on both sides and playing phenomenal basketball. The series is tied 1-1, and despite a blowout in Game 1, looks every bit the long, grueling series everyone thought it would be. In a series like that you need someone who can take over the game late, to have that guy who you look to. After a season of uncertainty as the Heat tried unsuccessfully to answer that question, it appears they have the solution.

LeBron James is the closer, and if he continues to play at this level late in close games, the Heat are going to be nearly unstoppable.

(Now watch Chicago win a close Game 3. It's been that kind of series, that kind of year.)
Posted on: May 19, 2011 6:38 pm
 

The Haslem Effect

Udonis Haslem was the difference maker in Game 2 for the Heat, and it wasn't just in the ways you noticed or would expect. 

Posted by Matt Moore

When coach Eric Spoelstra elected not to change his roster actives for Game 2, we were... less than impressed. How were the Heat going to manage to mitigate the huge rebounding advantage with the same roster? What of course we weren't counting on was Udonis Haslem rising from Spoelstra's training table like Frankenstein and destroying the Bulls like Taj Gibson did in Game 1. It wasn't just the kinds of plays you'd expect from Haslem in terms of rebounds and defense, though. Haslem made smart veteran plays... you know, the kinds of plays the Heat were counting on from Haslem all year prior to his injury. 

Check it out.


 

Here in the first half, James takes a pull-up jumper from the top of the arc. In a great example of how the bounces literally went Miami's way, the rebound doesn't carom straight backwards, where Noah is (left center), but instead bounces to the left.

 

Haslem manages to make the grab while Noah's still blocking out the weak side. Carlos Boozer's doing approximately what you'd expect him to be doing. Nothing. 



Haslem lands, and whereas Joel Anthony and his stone hands have a high probability of losing the handle on an attempted pass or gather, or even Dampier or Ilgauskas who would immediately attempt to tap the ball in over Noah's length, Haslem manages to move the ball down and sideways. Yes, you're never supposed to bring the ball back down in such a situation, but with the Bulls' length and ability to challenge, it's not a bad idea. Especially when you consider that there are four Bulls within a foot of Haslem and their backs are all facing the perimeter. Boy, I hope there's not a hyper-athletic superstar with incredible explosion hanging out after he just took a jumper. 



Because, you see, with Boozer just now starting to close on Haslem, and the Ball whizzing literally right by his head, that would mean that such a 6-8, 285 lb. freight train would have a clear shot at the lane to capitalize on Haslem's savvy play. 




Oh, yeah, LeBron James



Whoops. 

But it wasn't just there that Haslem did work. Controlling the glass was a problem for the Heat, but while the Bulls still ratcheted up 17 offensive boards, the majority came in the first half, and the percentage was much lower in Game 2. In particular, Taj Gibson wasn't a demon on both ends for the Bulls. 

Taj Gibson was a monster in that game, making all the key plays and adding 3 offensive rebounds among his seven total. In Game 2, Gibson had 1 offensive rebound, making his rebound total... 1. Haslem was partly why.  Here's an example. 

 

C.J. Watson takes a three here in the second. It's deep enough that there's a pretty solid chance the rebound's going to go wide to the left side of the basket, where Taj Gibson's waiting to collect. Haslem comes in helping off of Asik and identifies the angle. He's gonig to have to get between Gibson and the rim without already having position.

 

Haslem makes contact to put a body on him, and let's face it, this looks like a hug. The initial bump to Gibson's right side moves him just to the side enough to allow Haslem to slide in between him and the rim as the rebound comes off.



Haslem slides off of Gibson's right side to where he's parallel to Gibson, both players facing the baseline. 



Haslem turns, slipping under and up Gibson's right side, avoiding a foul call, and snares the rebound, immediately securing it low as opposed to keeping it high as the other Heat centers would be more likely to do. 

Haslem was the biggest difference maker in Game 2. Spoelstra relied on him heavily, playing him nearly to the bone. His conditioning will be tested in Game 3, but with three days rest, that may be enough time for him to recover. While the Heat may not have a player with enough size to keep the Bulls off the glass, they have a player they can count on to outsmart the Bulls' raw athleticism off the bench, giving more opportunities for the Big 3 to be the deciders in the game. 
 
Posted on: May 19, 2011 1:02 am
Edited on: May 19, 2011 1:24 am
 

Derrick Rose's non-MVP 4th



Posted by Matt Moore


It had to catch up with him at some point. Derrick Rose entered Wednesday night's Game 2 as the league leader in usage in the playoffs. If you're not metric-inclined, put simply, Rose was responsible for more possessions than any other player in the postseason, being in control for 35.7 percent of all the Bulls' possessions. That's a heavy load to bear. And in the fourth quarter against the Heat in Game 2, it caught up with Rose. 

The MVP finished just 7-23 from the field, harassed and bothered both by the Heat's double-teams on the perimeter and at the rim where the help defense was helped tremendously by, you guessed it, Udonis Haslem. But especially bad was his fourth quarter, in which the Bulls scored just 10 points, while LeBron James scored nine. Here's Rose's fourth quarter.

 

That's it. 2-4 free throw shooting, three assists, 0-4 from the field. The shot chart is equally unkind to DRose.

 


Yeah, 2-10 at the rim. Rose admitted post-game, "I missed a lot of shots I normally make tonight." Rose chalked it up to "one of those games." Which is partially true. But the Heat were much more determined to shut off Rose's perimeter pass-off options while maintaining their attack on Rose at the same time. The Heat spent less time on help defense at the elbow during Rose's drives and more time doubling on the perimeter, switching up coverage, and attacking the rim. They forced Rose to make hyper-aggressive moves toward the basket and challenged him hard there, making tough shots tougher. Rose can hit those tough shots. Making them that much tougher was enough to cause that 2-10 layup count. 

Rose was even missing free throws.

We've yet to see the MVP Derrick Rose in this series. The Bulls' offense has lived on offensive rebounds but at some point, they need to not need three tries to score. Haslem started chipping away at the Bulls' work on the offensive glass and the result was the Bulls being unable to score, again, just ten points in the fourth for the top seed in the East.

The best player for the Bulls had a bad night, with some help from the Heat on that front. Unless the MVP gets back on track, it's going to be an uphill climb for the Bulls. One can only feast on bench play and glass work for so long before your stars have to make a play.  
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com