This is just about as close to a must-win game for the Miami Heat. We've already seen how the Celtics came out with a ton of energy, bolstered by their fans, to win their first home game against the Heat. Then we witnessed how LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the team responded to the adversity to take the decisive Game 4.
If the Heat can keep up with the Bulls into the fourth quarter then Erik Spoelstra has to pray that LeBron and/or Wade can get hot and takes over the offense. The Heat's offensive playbook doesn't appear to be able to yield easy baskets to the Bulls defense so the Heat will live and die because of the individual talents of their Big 3 in crunch time. What would be nice is if James Jones or a player like Eddie House can be given a chance to consistently shoot from the outside when the second unit comes in to give them some support. Like they're supposed to do.
If Spoelstra is experimenting with Jamaal Magloire on the floor while Erik Dampier is in street clothes then you might as well throw in Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem for extended minutes as well. Either they contribute something this season or they don't. If they can facilitate for the Big 3 then it doesn't matter if they can score either. While neither can jump much, they can still help to box out the Bulls and prevent them from grabbing offensive rebounds. I want to see some Heat players hitting the floor for a loose ball instead of watching a Bulls player doing it instead. Miller and Haslem can do that despite their rust and maybe score a garbage basket or two.
And no more running out trying to get an easy basket in transition after a Bulls shot attempt, Wade and James. Crash the boards and secure those defensive rebounds.
The Chicago Bulls played a spectacular second half in their Game 1 victory over the Miami Heat. Many things went right for the team and a lot of it was a product of boundless energy and hustle plays. Some of it was pure luck too. For the Heat, it seems like one or two of the Big 3 is plagued with an off game against these Bulls in every meeting this season. Imagine the possibilities if they played up to their abilities.
Wrote much of it in the game preview, but it's simple. Attack, attack, attack, which begin with staying active on the defensive end and creating turnovers, grabbing rebounds. You might as well throw the current playbook away, which Thibodeau has crafted a masterful counteragent for. Miami has worn down opponents with their constant barrage, while being disruptive on defense. More of the same is needed, on steroids.
Also key to staying productive on the offensive end will be the success of the shooters. The Bulls excellent rotations held Miami to 8 shots from beyond-the-arc, only converting on 3 of them. It's not the time to hesitate, possibly the time to hope for Eddie House to have a signature Eddie House game, bursting with energy and quick buckets in his short stint on the floor. With Miller not 100%, the Heat lack their Korver to come off screens and space the floor, but James Jones still has a pulse and he's due for a solid shooting night. Running plays for Jones might just be crazy enough to work.
Not to beat a dead horse, but the Heat need to rebound better, plain and simple. The Bulls grabbed 41% of their misses, putting up 31 second chance points as a result. The Heat's initial defense was stellar, holding the Bulls to just 37.5% shooting, but the mental lapses on the glass killed any chance of winning. The Heat messed up rotations, got out worked and were caught watching the ball flat-footed far too often. There is no doubt going from the Celtics' style to the Bulls' style was a shock to the system, but it doesn't absolve the effort. A few bounces coupled with some hard work could help the Heat keep the rebounding battle respectable.
In order to offset the rebounding disadvantage, the Heat need to shoot the ball well, which they did in Game 1, avoid turnovers and get to the free throw line. The last two were big issues on Sunday night. The Heat cannot afford to throw away possessions against Chicago if they hope to win this game and eventually the series. Also, Miami needs LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to be aggressive and attack the rim. Look for more motion off the ball on the weakside of the floor. One way to neutralize the Bulls is to get their front court players into foul trouble. Attacking will help.
As for the rotations, I actually don't think there is a whole lot that you can do. As they say, "dance with the girl that brought you." The Heat will go as far as the Big Three takes them. The ancillary pieces are all flawed in their own special way. Mike Miller brings the rebounding that James Jones doesn't, but he lacks the shooting to stretch the floor. Damp, Magloire and Big Z bring the rebounding that the Warden lacks, but they weaken the defense as a result. Get something, give something up. As far as I'm concerned, Wade and James need to step up on the glass and on the offensive end. Do that and the Heat will be ok. Don't, and we'll be looking up the results of teams that started in 2-0 holes.
I hate to make this seem so simplistic, but it primarily boils down to one word: rebounding. The Bulls shot 37 percent on their first shot attempts of possessions. If the Heat just close that gap, they should have little trouble winning the game and stealing home-court advantage. I would play Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller more, but LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh need to crash the boards. They cannot afford to assume that someone will get the rebound for them.
Tom Thibodeau has not found the blueprint to shut down Wade and James; they just had one bad game. They should come out with an aggressive attitude to take the ball to the rim and score easy buckets. Bosh played a very good offensive game, rolling after setting picks and securing a plethora of easy shots at the rim.