Given Hinrich’s comments about not trying to run or cut yet because of the calf injury, you have to wonder if he’ll be physically ready to face one of the NBA’s elite point guards in Deron Williams.
If Hinrich can’t go, Tom Thibodeau might want to consider changing his starting line-up for Game 6. Putting Marco Belinelli in at point guard would give the Bulls 3 perimeter defenders who stand at least 6’7” to match up with the Brooklyn trio of Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace. The Bulls could put athletic swingman Jimmy Butler on Williams, use Luol Deng’s length against Johnson, and put the weakest defender of their 3 perimeter guys, Belinelli, on Wallace. This way, the Bulls could start the game with a defensive emphasis and hopefully get out to an early lead which would make the United Center crowd even more of a factor.
Starting Belinelli also allows Thibodeau to use Nate Robinson in his more comfortable role of dynamic scorer off the bench. Robinson wore down over the course of the 44 minutes he logged in Game 5 Monday night, affecting his play on both ends of the court in the 4th quarter. If Thibs can keep Nate’s minutes in the 25-to-30 range, he can expect maximum effort at all times from the team’s instant energy guy. And, the Bulls can also limit the amount of possessions Robinson is asked to defend Williams, which is a bad match-up. Robinson thrives on the energy of the home crowd, and being able to focus on his offensive game just plays to his strengths.
The Bulls can also run more screen/roll with Belinelli to get Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer some early chances going to the basket. Boozer only shot 8 times in the Game 5 loss, and that total should be doubled Thursday night. The Bulls settled for too many jump shots on Monday, and with Deng struggling from 3 point range (1-for-18 in the series), there needs to be an emphasis to attack the basket and try to get to the free throw line.
[ALSO: Thibodeau, Hinrich defend Rose]
Finally, starting Belinelli might also help with the Bulls’ rebounding issues. Brooklyn won the battle of the boards, 44-33 in Game 5, with 17 of them coming on the offensive end. With the Bulls’ big men forced to help out on Williams and Johnson, they were unable to get inside position when shots were missed. Putting defenders with size against the Nets’ two star guards is the best way to keep them out of the lane, where they can compromise the Bulls’ interior defense. Rebounding and tight half-court defense have been the Bulls’ calling cards under Thibodeau, and they need to get back to that grind it out style to close out the Nets on Thursday.