Tag:Luol Deng
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.  
Posted on: May 19, 2011 12:19 am
Edited on: May 19, 2011 5:39 pm

LeBron James, Udonis Haslem deliver 1-2 punch

Miami Heat forwards Udonis Haslem and LeBron James combined to put away the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. Posted byudonis-haslem Ben Golliver.

In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Miami Heat had zero answers for the Chicago Bulls in the second half. In Game 2, they had two: a likely suspect and a pleasant surprise. 

With the game tied at 73-73 with a little over four minutes to play in the final period, Heat forward LeBron James scored nine points in a little over three minutes to send Miami to an 85-75 victory, and even the series at 1-1. 

James' burst wasn't unlike the 10-point run he used to close out the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals, in that he visibly gained confidence after hitting a three-pointer, instantly switching into attack mode. Two perimeter jumpers and another one close in from James pushed Miami out of Chicago's reach, as the Bulls were unable to execute offensively down the stretch, scoring just two points in the final 7:15 of the fourth quarter.

Even after that run, and a 29-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist, 3-steal box score line, James wasn't in the mood to take the credit. Instead, he singled out reserve forward Udonis Haslem.

"He definitely gets the game ball tonight," James said in a post-game interview. "He came in with his energy and effort rebounding, finishing plays around the basket, made some shots when they were making a run in the third quarter that really helped us."

Because of a long-term absence due to a foot injury, Haslem's contributions this season have been far more of the off-court leadership and heart variety rather than the on-court muscle that he's known for. Prior to Game 2, Haslem had played just six minutes combined in the playoffs, including four minutes of garbage time at the end of Game 1. 

Wednesday night was a different story, though, as Haslem clocked 23 huge minutes off the bench. If he looked winded at times, understand that was the most minutes he had played since Nov. 19, 2010, nearly six months ago. 

There was a look in his eye," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the Associated Press. "I knew it was time."

In Game 1, Chicago's bench mob ran rampant. In Game 2, they were neutralized by Haslem's energy and paint presence. Fatigued or not, Haslem was everywhere, particularly in the third quarter. On Sunday, Miami looked flat and out of sync to start the second half, and that was clearly their undoing. On Wednesday, Haslem was more than enough spark to make the difference, combining two highlight reel dunks, a mid-range jumper, five rebounds and a blocked shot to provide Miami's biggest bench contribution since James Jones went off in Game 1 of the semifinals against Boston. He finished with 13 points.

No play was bigger than this dunk in transition, in which he powered up and over Bulls point guard Derrick Rose in transition, only to land softly into a reverse somersault. 

Want a quick laugh? Try to imagine any other Heat reserve making that play.

With Chicago's offense on life support for most of the game -- Rose needed 23 shots to score 21 points, the Bulls shot 3-20 from deep as a team, the Chicago Tribune reports the Bulls scored a franchise-low 10 points in the fourth quarter -- the Heat didn't need the full fury that James and Dwyane Wade are capable of delivering.

Instead, the James / Haslem one-two punch was more than enough to send Chicago reeling into Sunday's Game 3 in Miami.
Posted on: May 18, 2011 8:01 pm

Erik Spoelstra elects for same roster in Game 2

Erik Spoelstra keeps same inactives as Game 1 vs. the Bulls. Which is not genius. 

Posted by Matt Moore

The definition of insanity as termed by Albert Einstein is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

In a very short sample, Erik Spoelstra looks pretty nuts.

Spoelstra announced before the game that Erick Dampier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Dexter Pittman would all be inactive for Game 2 vs. the Bulls. This after the Bulls pulled in 19 offensive rebound against the Heat's fronctourt which featured Jamal Magliore who has hardly played this season and 6-9 Joel Anthony. Spoelstra acknowledged that offensive rebounding killed the Heat in Game 2, but instead chose to pin it on mental errors, focus on effort. Which makes tons of sense, except for the fact that this move means that players who are not adept at combatting the Bulls' size, length and offensive rebounding ability, as evidence by the massacre on the glass in Game 1, will have to somehow change the outcome of Game 2 under the exact same circumstances.

Yes, the Heat need to try harder. Yes, they need to have more focus. Yes, they have to mentally adjust. But it also would have done no harm to activate either Dampier or Ilgauskas and deactivate either Magliore or Juwan Howard. Spoelstra can still rely on Joel Anthony in that situation, but hope for a spark from someone with legitimate size. Instead, the coach is carrying the banner of "Keep Calm, and Carry On." In the regular season, that's confidence. In the playoffs, that refusing to make key adjustments. Spoelstra will once again have to hope his three stars can save him from questionable decisions.  
Posted on: May 18, 2011 7:42 pm

LiveChat: Heat-Bulls Conference Finals Game 2

Join us at 8:30 p.m. EST for Game 2 of the Heat and Bulls' Eastern Conference Finals. We'll discuss such groundbreaking topics as:

  • Is Jamal Magliore actually alive?
  • Is Omer Asik the second coming of Thor?
  • Will LeBron's head cold force him to... do absolutely nothing differently?
  • Tom Thibodeau can't actually yell like that the whole time, can he?
All that an more, join us at 8 p.m. EST.

Posted on: May 18, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: May 18, 2011 2:47 pm

LeBron James dealing with cold prior to Game 2

LeBron James suffering with a cold before Game 2 against Bulls

Posted by Matt Moore

Lebron James told reporters after shootaround Wednesday before Game 2 against the Bulls that he's dealing with a head cold. From ESPN

"LeBron is also battling a cold ahead of tonight's Game 2. Said it has been bothering him for 3 days."

James obviously has a history of vague conditions developing at the, ahem... wrong times, such as his unspecified elbow injury last year against the Celtics. It's interesting that James developed this cold after a subpar Game 1, considering he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that he couldn't sleep before the game
"If I'm back home, just try to get in the gym," he said of how he otherwise handles sleepless nights and mornings. "I know they wouldn't allow me to come in here at 5 o'clock in the morning, so I decide to watch film."

"It took me about an hour and half to get back to sleep. It's exciting," he said just before noon. "I'm a little sleepy now, but I'm excited about the opportunity tonight. It's going to be fun."
via Miami Heat: LeBron James can't sleep before facing Chicago Bulls in NBA Eastern Conference finals - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com.

So before Game 1 of the Conference Finals, James couldn't sleep and instead got up and watched film, putting more stress on his body. Then after a languished loss to the Bulls, he develops a head cold. That's LeBron for you, taking a tense situation and finding a way to make it worse. That said, there's no flu or significant illness here, and it certainly won't keep LeBron out. But he probably should have kept it to himself, just to avoid the avalanche of accusations that he's once again making excuses.

Always James, always drama.
Posted on: May 18, 2011 11:35 am
Edited on: May 18, 2011 2:03 pm

Playoff Fix: Heat try and outrun Bulls in Game 2

Posted by Matt Moore

One Big Thing: The Heat have to somehow peel the Bulls off the offensive glass, with a crowbar if necessary. Joakim Noah, in particular, has been a pest on the glass. The Heat must put put a body on him or he's going to continue to make life miserable for them. The big question here is whether Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will adjust his roster, putting bigger bodies Erick Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas on active roster or stick with his speed approach of Jamal Magloire. He can talk about it being effort, but expecting Magliore who didn't play hardly at all in the regular season to come in and keep one of the best offensive rebounding teams off the glass was a critical, and obvious, mistake. If the Bulls claim a huge margin in extra possessions in Game 2, the Heat are going to face a similar fate.

The X-Factor: Kyle Korver didn't have to do much damage in Game 1 and he was only 1-3. Thing is, the Bulls did do a good job when he was on the floor of getting him moving off-ball and finding opportunties for him. If Game 2 turns into more of an offensive slugfest, even a little bit, Korver could be a swing factor for the Bulls. Miami has to spend so much time with help defense off of Rose that opportunities are going to be there for Korver. He's just got to knock them down. If Thibodeau elects to keep his defensive units on the floor, though, and Keith Bogans is still hitting jumpers, Korver won't be needed. But it's nice to have him in your back pocket just in case.

The Adjustment: The Heat were unprepared for the Bulls' defense, despite having played it three times in the regular season and a version of it in Boston just days before. They started out with the right tone, but then let Chicago set the tempo for the rest of the game, particularly the third quarter. Miami's transition offense is better than Chicago's transition defense, because of the athletes they employ. But their halfcourt offense is not better than Chicago's offense, barring some magical coaching adjustment, which, let's face it, no one sees happening. As a result, the Heat have to get back to pushing the ball whenever they can. If they continue to settle in the halfcourt and eventually resign themselves to isolation sets against two and sometimes three help defenders, they're doomed.

The Sticking Point: Luol Deng won his matchup with LeBron James. Which is almost inconceivable until you realize how good a job Deng has done historically against James. But the fact remains, if Luol Deng is better than LeBron James, the Heat will not win. The Heat's formula is really that simple. If they don't get 100 percent James or 100 percent Wade, the game is over, no matter how much Chris Bosh contributes. Game one proved that already.
Posted on: May 16, 2011 7:56 pm

Heat-Bulls Game 1 posts cable TV record ratings

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals set an all-time record for cable television ratings for basketball. Posted by Ben Golliver.

The Eastern Conference finals match-up between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat has it all. Arguably the three most dynamic players in the NBA. Two premier offenses. Two premier defenses. Two competing visions for assembling a potential dynasty. Plenty of great villains like Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh. This is as must-see as the NBA gets.

On Monday, we found out that must-see translated to most-watched. The Chicago Tribune reports that Game 1, despite being a blowout, set a ratings record for a basketball game in cable television's history.
National numbers released Monday showed the Bulls' '103-82 rout on TNT to be the most-viewed basketball game in cable history, with more than 11.109 million total viewers and a 6.2 overall household rating. The previous record was the 10.829 million viewers for the 2003 NBA All-Star Game, which was Michael Jordan's final appearance in the mid-season exhibition.

The preliminary 7.4 household rating in the metered markets represented an improvement of 40 percent on TNT's corresponding playoff telecast a year ago, when it averaged a 5.3 household rating for the Western finals opener between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers. That Monday-night game figure dropped to a 4.2 household rating -- and 7.112 million total viewers -- when the national numbers came in.
We can try to divide this massive audience into subgroups -- "Heat Haters," "Bulls Bandwagon Fans," etc. -- but that would detract from the larger point: The NBA is back, front and center, in the mainstream.

As it should be. This has been an incredible season and an incredible playoffs, filled with tons of unpredictable results, an infusion of new blood and storyline after storyline after storyline. Just in time for a lockout. Awesome.

Hat tip: Pro Basketball Talk.
Posted on: May 16, 2011 11:37 am

Heat-Bulls Game 1 Reactions

Posted by Matt Moore

Bosh's outburst bugged Thibodeau so much that Gibson said, "It was the first thing he said in the locker room after the game.'' That's typical, but the Heat won't win this series relying on Bosh to score 30. Every time Bosh leads the Heat in anything, the Bulls have a better chance of winning.

It means either Wade or James — or both — are deferring or being smothered. It says the plan worked. It says change nothing.
via Chicago Bulls: Taj Gibson leads rout of Miami Heat - chicagotribune.com.

While the premise is sound, I don't think allowing Bosh to get going is a sound strategy. The odds are not good that Chicago will be able to hold down both James and Wade for four games in this series. One or the other, sure, their defense is well capable of doing so. But curtailing both is at this point still unbelievable. We've simply seen too much from them in playoffs past. And when that happens, giving up 30 to Chris Bosh is going to get to be a problem. As much as Bosh's outburst last night seems like an outlier, it came off of shots he is very much capable of getting. Until Carlos Boozer becomes a good enough defender to keep Bosh off the glass so that Noah isn't having to constantly worry about Bosh and the weakside rotation, this is going to be something the Bulls need to keep an eye on. Thibodeau certainly thinks so, which means he'll probably have a solution in Game 2. 
There are some decisions for Spoelstra. Due to a pregame decision to have Zydrunas Ilgauskas join Erick Dampier on the inactive list, that meant the Heat's starting centers for 79 of 92 games this year were inactive.

It also meant center Jamaal Magloire played for more than 10 minutes. And those were big moments for the Bulls. They outscored the Heat by eight points when Magloire was in the game.

Conclusion? The Heat have no good options beyond Joel Anthony at center. None. And even then Anthony is such a limited offensive presence that it allows Noah or Carlos Boozer to roam the lane to keep Wade or James from driving.
via Chicago Bulls 103, Miami Heat 82 - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com.

Spoelstra's lineup decision was downright mind-boggling. Against a team whose biggest advantage is going to be on the glass, why on Earth would you deactivate, not just bench, but deactivate your two biggest centers? I get that you want to focus on speed. But there has to be moderation. The Golden State Warriors aren't winning any NBA titles as constructed over the past six years. You have to control the paint, particularly the defensive glass. The only way to give a mid-level offense life is to give them 19 extra possessions, which is exactly what the Heat did. 

Magliore had not played all season, and then was expected to come in and curtail Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Omer Asik, along with Carlos Boozer? Who's bright idea was this?

Spoelstra could not have done a worse job in Game 1.
All of which is to say, Miami may still beat Chicago, but it won't be easy, and now we get to see how LeBron and Wade respond after crashing back to earth in these playoffs. There was never anything "new" about this Heat team. All year long, when the Heat have had success, it's compounded itself. A few made jumpers from either Wade or James turns into a cascade of fast breaks and lay-ups that leaves opponents drowning in athleticism, media frothing at the mouth, and LeBron and Wade looking like basketball geniuses. It's when the Heat start to struggle that things get interesting.

When it stops coming easy for them, it stops coming altogether. Just look at the second half Sunday night. The same way that a little bit of success can turn the Heat into a juggernaut that conjures images of the Showtime Lakers, the Jordan/Pippen Bulls, and every other great team in NBA history, a little failure can paralyze Miami's stars and leave them looking like every other overrated roster that's come to close to winning it all but hasn't quite finished the job.
via For LeBron James And Dwyane Wade, A Heat Check In Chicago - SBNation.com.

Last night saw the return of the infamous "Meh" Heat. All year long, when the Heat would be confronted by a defense and system more intent on guarding them than standing in awe of them, the Heat buckled. They started not caring. Settling for jumper after jumper. No one was more guilty of this last night than LeBron James, who simply gave up on driving to the rim.

What's even more stunning is that the Heat should have looked at the first half and said "We're doing what we need to do." Late in the first, Dwyane Wade faked Bogans to the outside, then slipped inside where James floated a pass over his defender perfectly. Wade missed the layup. There was no contest, it was just a missed layup, one of several in the first half. The Bulls were lucky to be tied at halftime, in all honesty. The difference was they responded by coming out in the second half and fixing all their issues, while the Heat stopped doing everything that was working (or nearly working) in the first half. They just gave up. The same Heat team from all those regular season disasters showed its ugly head.
This is now the second straight tremendous performance from the Bulls, and maybe the signal that they're healthy and peaking at a very opportune time. This is, of course, a series, and each game can tell a different story about how these teams match up. But with how the Bulls played tonight and the way they used advantages they should always have going into these games, it's up to Miami to figure it out. The Bulls will continue to be big, their bigs will be deep.
via 2011 Eastern Conference Finals Game One - Bulls 103, Heat 82: With bigs and bench, Bulls wear down and rout Miami - Blog a Bull.

Again, with the "What in the name of Alonzo Mourning were the Heat thinking?" with benching Ilgauskas and Dampier. Are those guys huge difference makers? No. But they don't have to be. They just have to not let the Bulls get 19 offensive rebounds. Oh, but wait, Joel Anthony, the ultimate no-stats guy for the Heat, he's supposed to be the difference! 

The Heat are in trouble because there are no easy fixes. They've been at their best this postseason when they employ the 6-foot-9 Joel Anthony at center, or when they slide Chris Bosh to the 5 and go without a traditional center. The Heat are essentially going small with Anthony on the floor. The small-ball formation allows the Heat to create mismatches and dismantle their opponents with athleticism and speed.

There's a tradeoff here. Going small has its virtues, but it has its drawbacks too. Namely, it compromises the Heat’s rebounding capabilities, but you couldn’t tell against the 76ers or Celtics. Why? They could hide Anthony’s abysmal rebounding -- he owned the third-worst defensive rebound rate among qualified centers this season -- because Philly also liked to go small and the Celtics didn’t like to clean their own glass. Anthony could swat at any shot he pleased in the paint because he knew the opposition wasn’t going to make him pay.

The Bulls, owners of the best rebound rate in the NBA, weren't as forgiving. Noah was behind eight of those offensive boards because he has the athleticism to jump quickly and the Heat can’t match his length underneath. Anthony would aggressively contest shots inside, but Noah beat him to the live ball consistently.
via Heat's small-ball finally meets its match - Heat Index Blog - ESPN.

Anthony is a fine match for Boozer and Bosh actually countered Noah well, despite Noah's eight offensive rebounds. But it was the bench that started to ruin the Heat, and Miami played into that by going with Magliore. The reality is that Spoelstra at some point became so worried about the offense and giving the Heat weapons to try and free up James and Wade that he sacrificed defensive size and girth. This is flawed both ways. Obviously, the Heat need that size to keep the Bulls off the glass, and two, the Bulls aren't going to stop focusing on Wade and James, no matter who's on the outside. Reggie Miller ain't walking through that door. 

In many ways, this game seemed like a war of attrition, with the Bulls wearing the Heat down with their depth in the second half. And it’s worth reminding everybody that after a regular season in which both James and Wade averaged close to 40 minutes per game, they are averaging 43.4 MPG and 39.6 MPG during the postseason.

With their usuage rates hovering in the 30-ish range, and with almost every single Miami play running through them, maybe the Bulls can keep throwing fresh bodies at them until they tire out.

Or maybe not. It’s worth remembering that, as impressive as the win was, it’s still a one-game sample. Will LeBron go 5-for-15 again? Probably not. Will he and Wade finish with only four FTA each again? Unlikely. What seems more reasonable is that Miami coach Erik Spoelstra will look at the tape, make adjustments, and we’ll see the Heat come out with a new game plan for Game 2.

But this was a pretty nice start.
via By The Horns -.

That's one way of putting it. An outright demolition is another.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com