“I’m ready for the next one already,” Carlos Boozer said, even before taking any questions from reporters after the Bulls’ disappointing 86-67 loss Thursday night to the Heat at the United Center.
Following a first quarter in which they played Miami to a 22-all draw, the Bulls scored 13 points each in the second and fourth periods, as the defending champions exploited their alarming 27 turnovers.
“The turnovers were a problem. Also, the type of passes that we were making. They have great quickness. You have to give them credit. They were into us and we didn’t move the ball, and that part, to me, I have to make our team understand the type of plays that we have to make to give ourselves a chance. Obviously when you turn the ball over like that, that part is on me. We have to understand what we have to do against that team to have a chance and we made the wrong type of plays against them,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau dissected. “They’re very good at pressuring the ball and swarming the ball. If you’re trying to thread the needle against them into the paint and keeping the ball on one side of the floor, you’re going to have a problem. The few times that we did move the ball side to side, we got good rhythm shots. We didn’t make them—you’ve got to make them—we didn’t make those shots, but they were the right shots. When we weren’t making shots and turning the ball over, we got frustrated, but to me, the big thing is the game is still within striking distance. We had a problem in the second and fourth quarter. Huge problem.
“I thought we were unselfish. We were trying to pass the ball. However, we didn’t see the plays the way we should have seen the plays. That part, I have to have our team understanding what we’re trying to get accomplished out there, so I have to do a better job with that. I also thought the level of intensity in this type of game wasn’t where it needed to be,” he continued. “Miami is rolling right now. They are playing great. Their intensity’s great, they’re playing very unselfishly at both ends of the floor. You have to give them credit and that being said, if you have two or three bad minutes, you’re going to crush yourself and that’s what we did. At the end of the first quarter, we were okay, but the ball wasn’t moving the way it needs to be moving.”
All-Star Luol Deng, who struggled through a 3-for-12 shooting night, put it more succinctly: “It was terrible.
“We talked about it a little bit after the game. We’ve got to understand when to get guys going. I think a lot of times, our rhythm out there is not how we need it to be. Myself, I’m struggling. I thought last game, I played well. Tonight, I struggled with my shot. But just trying to get a rhythm. I think it’s something we’ve got to do as a team, all of us, recognizing each other’s strength and playing together. We’ve shown that we’re good enough when we do that, but we’ve got to commit to that. That’s the kind of team we are. Especially when we beat this team down there, I thought we played well together. Tonight, we were flat, missed a lot of shots and credit to them. They played well,” he added. “When you have great offensive players, every defensive plan or scheme has a weakness. I think you get in trouble when you play to their strength. I think they flood and overload where the ball is. I think that’s when you’ve got to move the ball and find their weakness. When you play into their hands, turnovers, they get fast breaks and they get going.”
In the Bulls’ early-January road victory at Miami, they won by dominating the interior, taking advantage of the Heat’s vaunted small-ball approach, as well as limiting their own mistakes and playing efficiently on offense.
None of those traits were anywhere to be found Thursday, as the visitors evened things out in the paint—literally, as each team scored 38 points inside; the Bulls held only a slight rebounding edge, 39-36—and while the hosts played decent on the defensive end, it wasn’t enough to overcome their lack of scoring, which stemmed from their ball-security issues.
“We didn’t play well. You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. They’re very, very good. You can’t be hesitant when you play against a team like this. We’ve got to do better,” Joakim Noah observed. “A lot of the mistakes that we made were our fault. We’ve got to have better spacing. We’ve got to know our strengths. But we know that we can play much better. That’s what’s frustrating. Just disappointed in the way that we played. It’s always tough to lose at your home. It’s supposed to be an exciting night. It’s a big game. To come out and play like that, disappointing.
“We’re capable, definitely capable, but it’s one of those games. Got to move on, got to bounce back tomorrow. We’ve just got to play better basketball,” he went on to say. “No question. We know we’re capable of much better and you’re not going to beat the defending champions turning the ball over 27 times. I had a big part in it. I turned the ball over too much, over-passing. I feel like I’ve just got to be a little bit more aggressive.
“They kicked our [expletive] and we’ll be back.”