Chicago Can't Equalize

by Jeff Fogle 25. May 2011 00:45

It was there for the taking. With Dwyane Wade playing poorly, Chris Bosh falling back to earth after a huge Game Three, and the Miami Heat's offense suddenly looking generic rather than awesome...the Chicago Bulls had Game Four in their hands in the final moments of regulation. Derrick Rose couldn't make a guarded 17-foot tie-breaker over LeBron James with 28 seconds left, then airballed a guarded 18-foot replay as regulation ended. Miami would win overtime 16-8, and take a 3-1 series lead.

NBA coaches have hopefully learned this month that asking your best guy to make a long guarded shot over the opponent's best defender isn't a great way to try and win a ballgame. Henry Abbott spends the year reminding everyone how poorly Kobe Bryant has performed in the final seconds of close games by running the clock down and forcing up a long jumper...so the NBA nation thinks "Hey, maybe it's due to finally work, let's try it with our guy!"

In a streaky game that saw both teams blow hot and cold, the Bulls were able to neutralize Miami's stars. Well, at least in regulation.

The Big Two in Regulation:
Rose and Deng: 41 points
James and Wade: 37 points

The Big Three in Regulation
:
Rose, Deng, and Boozer: 60 points
Rose, Deng, and Bosh: 55 points

Chicago had little left in the tank. Miami had a legacy to build...

In Overtime:
Big Two: Miami 12, Chicago 2
Big Three: Miami 16, Chicago 3

The meme of the afternoon had been that Dwyane Wade had put his kids to bed last night, then driven to the arena to work more on his shooting. It was a great way for the media to transition from the amazing Dallas-OKC ending (that Wade missed), while talking about a championship work ethic. Wade may never do that again! He was a poor 5 of 16 from the floor for the night, and that's after making his last two shots of the evening during the overtime pullaway.

Wade had a plus/minus of -18 in regulation in 36 minutes of game action.

In fact, Wade and LeBron were both in negative territory tonight. The plus/minus stars were Mike Miller with an astonishing +36 in 26 minutes, and Udonis Haslem with +25 in 34 minutes despite going 0 for 5 from the floor.

Let's run the numbers...

MIAMI 101, CHICAGO 93 (in overtime)
2-point pct: Chicago 46%, Miami 44%
3-pointers: Chicago 6/24, Miami 5/13
Free Throws: Chicago 17/22, Miami 32/38
Turnovers: Chicago 19, Miami 15
1's and 2's: Chicago 75, Miami 86

What's jumped out to me the most in this series is the consistency of Miami's defense. They've been able to contain Derrick Rose in almost lockstep fashion, particularly in their three victories.

Rose This Series:
Game One: 10 of 22 for 28 points (Chicago's win)
Game Two: 7 of 23 for 21 points
Game Three: 8 of 19 for 20 points
Game Four: 8 of 26 for 23 points in regulation

He's not killing Miami on drives. He's not earning a lot of trips to the free throw line. He's been contained as well as you can contain him. And, that's corresponded to very similar defensive performances is "1's and 2's" because Rose is pretty irrelevant from long range these days.

Chicago Scoring on 1's and 2's:
Game One: 73 points
Game Two: 66 points
Game Three: 70 points
Game Four: 72 points in regulation

Tight range. And, a hurdle Miami can reach and clear themselves with their weaponry.

Other quick notes:

*Miami finally got it's projected "2010-11 crunch time lineup" of James-Wade-Bosh-Miller-Haslem on the floor together for extended time. Miller made some shots, so it seemed for a second there like the Optimus Champ had finally been transformed from its component parts. But, there's still only one ball. And, this really wasn't a good offensive night for the Heat until they scored 16 in the extra period. They were below a point per possession in regulation. Miami could easily have lost and given back home court advantage had Chicago been creative on those last two regulation possessions rather than hoping Rose could make a long shot over a much taller defender.

*Miami was +15 free throws on +16 attempts. That's after +9 on +8 in Game Three on this court. Worth repeating again I think that Miami is very likely to win this category in home games...and they'll have home court advantage in the Finals on the currently high percentage assumption that they'll be representing the East.

*Once I start a tributary within a series, I feel like I should keep updating it. Feel guilty about that with Kyle Korver. He's trying so hard. Nobody wants to start making some shots more than he does. Tonight's 2 of 6 brings him to 25 of 77 from the floor over the last 12 games, with eight rebounds in 172 minutes. Chicago badly needs three-pointers to discourage Miami from slumping back to form a brick wall. The Bulls are just 14 of 56 from long range (25%) since that 10 of 21 opener.

Miami takes a 3-1 series lead to Chicago for Game Five Thursday Night. The Heat are 11-3 in the postseason, and have the look of a team that's about to peak at just the right time. The bad news for Heat fans is that probable championship opponent Dallas is MUCH better from 3-point land than Chicago is. More on that once business is formally taken care of in the conference finals. With overtimes each of the last two nights, there may be some twists and turns still ahead.

Back late Wednesday with numbers and notes from Game Five of Oklahoma City-Dallas...

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