Now that the Bulls have had time to watch the film and reflect upon Wednesday night's embarrassment in Miami, it’s time for Tom Thibodeau and his staff to make some adjustments for Game 3. Clearly, the Bulls can’t get drawn into a physical war with the defending NBA champions. LeBron James and Co. are going to get the benefit of the calls in any game they play in and the Bulls simply can’t afford to have Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson sidelined by foul trouble, or rendered ineffective from losing their composure.
The Heat were clearly unhappy with the way the Bulls won Game 1 and ended their 27-game regular season winning streak by playing tough, physical defense. So, in Game 2, they decided to quit their whining (at least briefly) and give the Bulls a dose of their own physical play, whether it was a LeBron elbow to Noah in the first half, a "Birdman" Chris Andersen football-style block on Marco Belinelli or Mario Chalmers’ horse-collar foul on Noah in the second half. The Bulls didn’t think they got a fair shake from the officials, which led to six technical fouls and ejections of both Noah and Gibson.
So, with the series now tied at 1, it’s time for the Bulls to make their adjustments:
No. 1: They have to do a better job of playing help defense on James.
The four-time NBA MVP got to the basket with ease in the first quarter of Game 2, making his first six shots on layups or dunks. Jimmy Butler is a good defensive player, but no one is able to stop James by himself. Butler has to direct James to double-team help from Noah or Carlos Boozer and force LeBron to pass the ball. Sure, Miami is capable of shooting a good percentage from the three-point line, but you’d rather take your chances with Chalmers, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh shooting long jumpers, rather than having James barrel his way to the basket without resistance.
No. 2: Get the ball inside to Boozer early and often.
Boozer was basically a non-factor in the first two games, settling for fall-away jumpers, rather than attacking the basket. Hopefully, playing at home will re-energize Boozer and give him the motivation to use his size and strength inside against Miami’s smaller front line.
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No. 3: Avoid silly turnovers.
The Heat at their best when they grab an errant pass and take off the other way, usually resulting in a dunk for James or Wade. Nate Robinson was the victim of Miami’s double-teaming defense Wednesday night and he has to do a better job of recognizing when the double team is coming and move the ball to an open shooter. We’re all hoping Robinson has one of his spectacular scoring games, but he also needs to take care of his responsibilities as the Bulls’ de facto point guard.
No. 4: Get better production from their bench.
After playing well in Game 7 against Brooklyn, Marquis Teague and Daequan Cook have been liabilities in this series, unable to deal with the suffocating pressure that the Heat’s perimeter defenders can apply. Stacey King suggests the Bulls might want to give Rip Hamilton some meaningful playing time in this series, since he’s had past success against Wade and might be able to take Miami’s second-best player out of his comfort zone. But whether it’s Rip, Gibson or Nazr Mohammed, the Bulls need to get more value from their bench especially at home where role players are generally more comfortable.
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No. 5: Control the paint.
Miami out-rebounded Chicago in Game 2, 41-28, and had an incredible 56-18 advantage in points in the paint. After Game 1 Noah said that when the Bulls and Heat square off, the team that wins the rebounding battle usually wins the game and that certainly was the case Wednesday. It all goes back to point No. 2; the Bulls need a motivated and productive Boozer to have any chance against the defending champs.
Don’t forget, Comcast SportsNet and CSNChicago.com will have expanded postgame coverage after every Bulls’ playoff game. Friday night, join me and Stacey as soon as our coverage of the White Sox-Angels game is complete. Hopefully, we’ll have a much better Bulls’ performance to talk about.