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Derrick Rose and the Bulls got their hearts ripped out in Chicago in Game 5, and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did the surgery en route to an NBA Finals berth. Sometimes when amazing happens, it can be awfully hard to stomach.
Now that Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls have been sent packing by the Miami Heat, what lessons did they learn? More than anything, the Bulls must realize that their roster needs to be upgraded.
One of the biggest factors in the Miami Heat's 4-1 Eastern Conference Finals win over the Chicago Bulls was the defense LeBron James (a 6'8 small forward) played on Derrick Rose (a 6'3 point guard, one of the league's quickest players, and the NBA MVP). LeBron took over Rose duty in critical moments, including entire fourth quarters. And the two-time MVP clearly shut down his successor.
But the level to which LeBron locked up Rose is still amazing, even for those who watched every second of the series. Via J.E. Skeets, ESPN's Stats and Info Department put together the data to show how incredible James' defense on Rose was in this series.
After going 0-for-5 from the floor with a turnover when guarded by LeBron James in Game 4, Derrick Rose struggled against him once again Thursday, going 1-for-10 with two turnovers in Game 5. Rose shot 6.3 percent from the floor in the series when defended by James, lowest among any player that defended him on five or more plays.
That's just unbelievable -- 1-15 for the MVP over two critical playoff games when defending by a player five inches taller and maybe 50 pounds heavier. There's a reason LeBron makes the All-Defense team every year, and while he'll continue to for the next several years. That's just unfair.
Derrick Rose made a few unfortunate plays down the stretch of the Chicago Bulls' stunning Game 5 loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday. Miami went on an 18-3 run in the final minutes to turn a 12-point deficit into a three-point win; LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did everything for the Heat, on both ends. In those final four minutes, Rose had two turnovers, fouled Wade on a three-pointer for a four-point play, missed a critical free throw and saw his attempt game-tying three in the final seconds blocked by James.
Q: Derrick, can you give your overview of the series, and try not to blame yourself too much in the process?
Rose: It was me. Turnovers, I guess fouls, if you call it that. If anything, you just learn from it and just try to do better next year.
Bizarre, qualified nature of the first kid gloves question aside, this is vintage Rose: he's humble, gentle and welcomes the blame. If anything, he's seemed more uncomfortable in success -- uncomfortable with sprawling platitudes -- because he knows holes exist in his game. (Miami put those on full display.) That personality trait is what pushes him to work so hard, what turned him from an All-Star reserve into an MVP.
Of course, it's not all his fault. Plenty of it -- especially at the end of Game 5 -- is. He was just bad in the closing minutes; if LeBron had a stretch like that on this stage, a wide swath of the talking-head punditry and sports talk radio would explode in glee instantaneously. Rose is perceived differently, in part because of his humility. Maybe it's not fair to the more self-assured (or just plain cocky) NBA stars like LeBron, but it's never going to change.
It took a fourth quarter comeback, but the Miami Heat inched closer to an NBA Championship, the goal put into place as the Big Three came together during the summer of 2010. After dropping the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals, Miami bounced back in a big way, taking the next four games to punch a ticket to the NBA Finals where the Dallas Mavericks await. And Thursday's win may have been the most impressive of them all as the Heat rallied in the final two minutes to down the Chicago Bulls, 83-80.
The Bulls were in control on Thursday night as the seconds ticked off the clock in the fourth. With three minutes to go, Chicago was up 10 and with two to go the lead stood at eight. But it all fell apart as Miami ratcheted up the defensive intensity and began burying clutch shots on the offensive end. A 36-second flurry cut the Chicago lead to just three and though the Bulls were clinging to a three-point lead, the game, and the series, felt as if it was over.
The fourth quarter was all about the Big Three on the offensive end as Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James teamed to score all 26 of Miami's points over the final 12 minutes. After a quiet game in which nothing was going his way, Wade came alive when it counted, scoring 10 of his 21 points in the fourth, including a four-point play with 1:30 to go to cut the Chicago lead to three. James was the catalyst, as usual, leading the way by clamping down on Derrick Rose and scoring 12 points in the final 12 minutes as the Heat mounted their furious comeback.
This was what many expected the Big Three to look like when James, Wade and Bosh combined like Captain Planet during free agency and it was more than impressive to watch the group go to work with the game on the line in Chicago. And when the Heat are playing as they did over the final three minutes of Thursday's game, there's little an opponent can do to slow it down.
The overriding sentiment at the end of the Miami Heat's Game 5 win over the Chicago Bulls -- a win that saw Miami use a game-ending 18-3 run to come away with a 83-80 victory -- was one of shock. In a low-scoring game, with Dwyane Wade struggling, to see Miami storm back for a 12-point deficit over about three minutes of game action, with a parade of three-pointers and great defensive stands -- mixed in with some cringe-worthy miscues by Chicago, to be sure -- was the most surreal experience of the NBA Playoffs to date.
"We don’t even know what happened," said Wade. [...] "I’m not going to lie to you and say we do."
"We don’t honestly know what happened," said LeBron. [...] "We know some big plays happened and we know we won the game. It went so fast."
There you have it: the two players most responsible for the completely jaw-dropping finish have no clue how to assess what happened. In a playoffs filled with blank stares of disbelief and reason suspended, the Heat took it to another level, amazing even themselves.
When the Miami Heat needed them most, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade showed up to deliver the goods. James and Wade scored 22 of the Heat's 26 points in the fourth quarter to defeat the Chicago Bulls, 83-80. The Heat captured the series, 4-1, and will face the Dallas Mavericks in a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals.
The Heat entered the final quarter down by five points, 62-57, but James, Wade and solid defense paved the way to victory. James scored 12 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter. Chris Bosh (20 points, 10 rebounds) started the quarter with the first Heat bucket, but the next 22 points by the Heat came by James and Wade. Bosh, though, closed out the scoring with two free throws.
Derrick Rose attempted one final shot before the buzzer went off, but James was there to block it. Rose put up 25 points on 9-of-28 shooting, while Luol Deng was behind him with 18 points. Ronnie Brewer was the only other Bulls scorer in double-digits with 10.
Things got testy when LeBron James drove to the hoop, but was met with a Carlos Boozer hand to the face. James, who exaggerated pain on an earlier play, went down and covered his nose. Boozer received a flagrant foul for that. Luol Deng and Taj Gibson would also receive fouls later on, Gibson's a technical.
James and Bosh each have 16 points and eight rebounds, but Dwyane Wade is having a tough go at it. He has 11 points, but he has nine turnovers. For the Bulls, Derrick Rose has 19 points, but after a good start from the field he is just 7-of-20.
The Chicago Bulls enter halftime of Game 5 with a seven-point lead over the Miami Heat, 45-38. Building on the momentum from their 15-6 run to end the first quarter, the Bulls never trailed in the second quarter and held a lead as large as 12 points with five minutes remaining in the quarter.
Luol Deng leads the Bulls with 14 points, while Derrick Rose has 10 points, all in the first quarter. However, Rose has distributed the ball for five assists. The Bulls hold a 23-14 rebounding advantage over the Heat, as Deng, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah each pulled down four boards. Rose has two of the team's five offensive rebounds, as many as the entire Heat team has at the half.
LeBron James is the only Heat player in double-digits (11 points), but Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are right behind with nine and eight points, respectively. Wade, though, has already made six turnovers. Mike Miller has played solidly off the bench with seven points on 3-of-5 shooting.
Down for a good portion to start the game, the Chicago Bulls turned the first quarter in their favor on a late Luol Deng dunk. But it wasn't any old dunk. Deng drove through the lane and dunked it on LeBron James, drawing the foul as well. Derrick Rose added a layup several seconds later to give the Bulls their first lead in over eight minutes. The Bulls lead, 25-21, after the first quarter.
The Bulls opened up the quarter with a 4-0 lead, but quickly saw the Heat go on a 12-2 run. Deng and Rose combined for 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting to save the quarter. The Bulls went on a 15-6 run to end the first period of play.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade scored nine points and seven points, respectively, but the Hear are shooting under 40 percent from the field so far. Neither team's bench has put any points on the board.
Much like the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Chicago Bulls lost Game 4 in overtime (falling behind 3-1) in a game they should have won (the Bulls had two shots to take the lead in the final seconds). Unlike the Thunder, the Bulls get Game 5 in their own building, giving them more of a chance to get the win and bring the series back to Miami for Game 6. If the Bulls are going to want to come away with the win, they are going to have to make a few adjustments.
Before Game 4, I talked about how the Bulls should start to isolate Derrick Rose more to avoid the hard trap on pick and rolls. They didn't do that, but they did make a very nice adjustment by taking the pick-and-roll and running it on the wing rather than up top. The Bulls had success with this side pick-and-roll because it made it much tougher for the defense, forcing rotations to come from farther away and giving Rose the space to split the pick-and-roll. In addition to this (which you should expect the Bulls to continue), the Bulls should work Rose off of the ball more towards the middle of the court. It is something the Bulls ran once in Game 4, allowing Rose to draw a foul:
This play is successful because of where Rose makes his initial catch. He catches the ball right at the foul line and is able to attack right off the catch, taking a dribble or two and then ending up right at the rim. Also, because of the movement (as opposed to Rose standing up top with the basketball), the defense can't load up on Rose, so when he does catch and attack, that wall of defenders that he has been seeing all series long isn't there. This is what allows him to get to the front of the rim and draw the foul.
If the Bulls do a better job of sprinkling this into their offense along with continuing to use the side pick-and-roll versus the pick-and-roll at the top of the key, they can be much more effective offensively, taking pressure off of their defense.
BLOB is short for Baseline Out of Bounds, and in Game 4, the Heat scored on three of their four BLOB opportunities, good for six points on 75 percent shooting. In a game that ended up going into overtime, those six points are huge. While the Heat were running solid sets out of timeouts, the main reason why they were able to score was because the Bulls' defense got a little lazy and didn't stick to their defensive principles:
On both of these BLOB sets, the Bulls make a defensive mistake that leads to a basket. In the first clip, Rose is lazily chasing Mike Bibby around a screen off of the ball, and the end result is Bibby making a catch with space, allowing him to rise up and knock down the jumper uncontested.
In the BLOB set, the Heat run what looks like to be the same play, except with Mike Miller coming off of the screen. This forces both Carlos Boozer and Rose to leave Udonis Haslem and chase Miller to the corner. At the same time, Joakim Noah sinks in on a Dwyane Wade flash, leaving all five Bulls' defenders below the restricted area. This sets up the defense perfectly for Haslem to set a screen for Chris Bosh, resulting in a wide open jumpers.
In my opinion, the Bulls lost focus with the ball on the baseline and that made them susceptible to the sets that the Heat were running. If they maintain their focus and defend these sets properly, they have a chance to take 6-10 points off of the board, giving them a better chance to come away with the win.
Derrick Rose is the NBA MVP for many reasons, but chief among them is his offensive dynamism for a Bulls team that lacks other creators off the dribble. But Rose hasn't been able to create at an MVP level against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, thanks in part to the world-class athleticism of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, and that's been the difference in the series so far.
At his essential blog, NBA Playbook, SB Nation contributor Sebastian Pruiti detailed how the Bulls tried to remedy that in Game 4, moving him to the wing and running the pick and roll from there. And that worked, but then Chicago chose to run isolation plays for Rose at the top of the three-point arc late in the fourth quarter; as Pruiti explains at The Basketball Jones, those were not at all successful.
Chicago's in a rough spot: either one of its role players must step up on the offensive end — as, say, Luol Deng has in these playoffs — or the Bulls need to get offensive rebounds and sink their threes, following the Game 1 blueprint that led to a rout of Miami. If those things don't happen, the Bulls' superb season will likely end tonight.
The Bulls' season-long commitment to great defense made them the best team in the Eastern Conference in the regular season. But that fantastic defense was also predicated on a rotation of big men that included Omer Asik, and it will be without him in Game 5 in Chicago.
Our Bulls blog, Blog-a-Bull, says Asik is out for the season with a broken fibula, which he tried to play on in Game 4. Asik tallied just two minutes in Game 4, took no shots, and committed two fouls; his plus/minus for that short span was a staggering minus-nine.
So, no, that didn't really work for Chicago, but neither did playing Carlos Boozer for as long as Tom Thibodeau did; perhaps that means the Bulls will use Taj Gibson more in Game 5.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat can close out the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday night with a win over the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT). That Miami is in this position is a surprise to many; the Bulls finished the regular season with the NBA's best record and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. And while Chicago didn't exactly look sharp in the first two rounds, most expected a Bulls win over Miami, or at the very least a long series.
But the Heat are just one win away from the NBA Finals. Derrick Rose has been relatively locked up; Miami's maligned point guards Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers are done as prescribed, and the Heat have offered up lots of help, forcing the MVP into jumpers and passes. On the other end, LeBron (35 points in Game 4) and Chris Bosh (two 30-point games in the series) have been excellent; Dwyane Wade has had a bit of trouble, but excelled in overtime in the Game 4 win. The Big Three has lived up to its billing, shredding Chicago's incredible defense while defending very, very well on the other end.
In the meantime, Udonis Haslem has come back to be a factor -- should Miami advance, he'll reacquaint himself with Dirk Nowitzki, a rival from the 2006 NBA Finals -- and Mike Miller finally broke out. Miller has undergone a harrowing time, as his newborn daughter remains in a Miami hospital; the trip to Chicago for Game 5 is the first time Miller has been away from his wife and daughter since the latter's birth last week. He had his best game of the playoffs in Game 4, with his heart in that hospital room.
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