2011 Eastern Conference Finals: Six Steps To The Bulls Making A Comeback!

Down 2-1, the Bulls find themselves in unfamiliar waters this playoffs. Coach Thibodeau, and his staff have been incredibly successful all season with their uptempo, energetic, trap and rotate defense. Moreover, Coach Thibodeau stated earlier last week that he wouldn’t change what has worked for him all season. However, in my opinion, Thibs has veered this team off the deep end when it comes to offensive productivity and rotation defense because he has not only stopped doing some of the more important things that have worked during the regular season, but he’s also not made the right adjustments between games that has now cost them two in a row against the Heat.

  1. The biggest concern that I see in this series is that they haven’t played Kurt Thomas. He’s a good defender, solid 10-ft jumper, and can get the boards. But the biggest thing this team is lacking is swag (enter P. Diddy aka Puff Daddy aka Sean Puffy Combs). Kurt Thomas gives this team the extra mental edge that a veteran of 15+ years in the league does. On top of that, he fills a physicality that this team has been lacking against the likes of Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem. Joaquin Noah can’t be the enforcer out there because if he gets into foul trouble, the Bulls are stumped, but Thomas can. Thibs needs him in there for 5-10 mins a game, 4 hard, on-ball fouls, 6 pts off of 5-10 ft jumpers and putbacks, and stopping easy buckets. It’s not dirty play, it’s mental games.
  2. I hate on-ball screens, but they work in two scenarios:  (a) Karl Malone and John Stockton and (b) if the big men that are helping are too slow to jump out on the screen. So, either the Bulls need to stop setting on-ball picks for Derrick Rose and let him make Mike Bibby look silly 1-on-1, or you bring someone up that you know won’t be able to trap like Joel Anthony or Mike Miller. Bosh has been guarding Joaquin Noah this whole series because (a) Noah has no post game and Bosh has no post defense (b) Bosh is good at pick and roll defense and Noah has no jump shot on a slip screen. Why don’t we insert Boozer (with Haslem on him) into the pick and roll, and suddenly, on the roll or the slip cut…Boozer is either going for a dunk or shooting his bread and butter 15-ft from the free throw line? Furthermore, if Joel Anthony is guarding him, then Rose has the ability to break the double team and/or find Boozer on the roll. Boozer has only been playing the pick and roll game for like 10 years…sheesh…
  3. In my opinion, Luol Deng is one of the best slashers in the game.  He’s definitely gotten a 3-pt shot, but Thibs is relying too much on it. Before Deng had a 3-pt shot (like say…last season), Deng was a great slasher to the rim because he has that incredible length. If Rose drives to the hole or dumps it off to Boozer on the slip cut, Deng should look to slash to about 10-ft from the bucket for an easy jumper on the wing or layup across the other side of the rim. The same goes for Ronnier Brewer. Thibs needs to utilize his players strengths within his offense. Furthermore, a driving Rose, slashing Deng/Brewer & 10 to 15-ft jumpers from Boozer, Gibson and/or Thomas with a crashing Noah/Asik, suddenly opens up the 3 pt line for Korver, Deng and Bogans (yes I said it…Bogans).
  4. Thibs has relied on Noah’s length, energy and pure will to lead the defense on its rotations, while Deng, Brewer and Bogans play shut down defense on the opposing team’s scorers. So why is Noah suddenly playing Bosh 1-on-1 18-ft out on the rim. Noah is an around the rim guy, and he, Boozer and Gibson are your front-line core. However, Gibson is your best on-ball defender and Boozer has proven to be successful at guarding Bosh 1-on-1. So, next game, I’d rather see Boozer on Bosh because if Bosh drives passed Boozer, a 7′ Noah will be there to help, whereas vice versa, Boozer or Gibson at 6′ 8″ don’t pose as much of a threat for layups. Furthermore, keeping Noah and Asik inside on Joel Anthony will make it easier to prevent easy dunks by Lebron and Wade too.
  5. One of the first things I said when I saw this match-up was Coach Calipari vs Coach Krzyzewski because the former believed in super star power and athleticism, while the latter relied on ball movement, rotations and heart. Thus far, this season, the Heat have shown that they have a lot of star power but at times, they haven’t played well as a team. Vice versa, the Bulls (up until the playoffs) have shown decent ball movement and teamwork. In game 1, I saw the Bulls at their best, showing teamwork and passion. But it has, since, disappeared. The biggest statistic on offense is assists. Bench points and field goal percentage for the Bulls have been abysmal as of late because of the lack of movement in their offense. It’s been noticed a lot in these playoffs because the Bulls come out thinking that they can just stand around and let Rose go 1-on-5, but that’s not the case. The Heat have out-assisted the Bulls in 2 of the 3 games (and the Bulls have lost those games), and have not only been the team with the superstars, but the team melding together into one big, immovable force. This needs to be remedied fast.
  6. Heart. Heart. Heart. At times, the Bulls look downright lost. And that’s to be expected for an inexperienced team in the playoffs. But instead of gritting down, and standing tall as they’ve done all season, they’re folding. They’re giving up the easy shots. They’re losing out to loose balls. They’re being out-hustled and out-manned. Second chance points mean nothing if you’re shooting 35% and your opponent is shooting 50%. They’ve been a half step slow on rotations, a half step slow on fast break defense, and frankly, it’s been difficult to watch as a team that was once touted to have so much “heart” go down in this manner. Only time will tell if the Bulls and Coach Thibodeau can make these adjustments because, otherwise, the Bulls are going home in 5. And I’d really hate to see such an incredible season fall short with such a lack of passion, effort and adjustments.
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