The Bulls weren't at their best last night but they were awful close and they still couldn't beat the Heat. They fought through 53 minutes but the Heat are just too much for them to handle. If it's not LeBron James then it's Dwyane Wade. If it's not Wade or James it's Chris Bosh. If it's not the Big 3 it's Udonis Haslem or Mario Chalmers or Mike Miller hitting big shots and keeping the Heat a step ahead or the Bulls. It isn't over but with the Heat leading 3-1 and the Bulls unable to find a way to win it's difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Bulls pull this one out.
Bulls Picked Up the Pace
The Bulls' offense had been stagnant. They couldn't get anything going in the halfcourt set and it was clear they needed to manufacture points by getting Derrick Rose and Co. out in transition. They were able to do that last night, outscoring the Heat 26-13 in fast break points during regulation. It wasn't just off of turnovers either. Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson looked to push immediately and they were able to get a few good attempts around the rim because of it.
More Than Just Rose
One of the big reasons the halfcourt offense was struggling was because no one outside of Rose could create his own shot. But both Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng made a bunch of one-on-one plays and converted. Boozer was 7 of 14 for 20 points and Deng was 8 of 16 for 20 as well. This was the type of help Rose needed but it wasn't enough.
Rose Not Looking Like MVP
Through the first half of the season Rose was hitting around 40-percent from 3-point range. This added dimension made him impossible to guard. No one could possibly stay close enough to him to prevent his quick release while still preventing him from driving to the hoop. The Heat haven't had to worry about that shot though. Rose is 5 for 23 (22%) from 3-point range and can't hit his mid-range jumper either. He was 1 of 9 from distance last night as he put up 27 shots and made just 8 of them. I don't blame Rose for taking that many shots. The Bulls' offense revolves around him and he is carrying a heavy burden. But if he can't make a jump shot he becomes very easy to defend and that means the Heat don't need to help out as much and that means less open shots for the rest of the Bulls.
Noah Is the Best Defender On the Court
The Heat were held to 24 points in the paint and the biggest reason for that is the defense of Joakim Noah. He's quick enough to stay with the guards and strong enough to hold his own in the post. LeBron and Wade settled for jumpers because they knew if they penetrated that Noah was waiting there for them. His impact was most apparent when he left the game late in the third quarter. Forced to play 45 minutes because of an injury to Omer Asik, Noah took his rest late in the third and the Heat scored on three straight possessions in the paint. LeBron had a layup, was fouled and converted on both free throws and had a dunk. Without Noah and Asik, the Bulls were too small to contain the likes of James.
More 4th Quarter Woes
The Heat seemed to wear down in the fourth and overtime. Maybe the Heat's defense got better as well, but the Bulls could no longer get out in transition. The Heat will always win a halfcourt battle against these Bulls and that's what the fourth quarter and overtime turned into.
The Bulls scored just 10 point in the fourth in Game 2, 20 in Game 3 and 17 last night. So much for the Heat not being able to close out games. LeBron took on the assignment of guarding Derrick Rose and on the Bulls' last two possessions of regulation he forced him into a contested deep jumper. Neither were good looks and with the way the Heat were spreading the floor it looked like Rose had room to take it to the rim or at least penetrate and look to kick.
In a game where so much went right for the Bulls they have to be demoralized by this loss. The Heat seem to just keep getting better. First it was Haslem with a huge contribution in Game 2 and last night it was Mike Miller who stepped up with 12 off the bench. It looks like the Heat's vision during the offseason is finally coming to fruition.