2011 Eastern Conference Finals Game Two - Bulls struggle to shoot from anywhere as Haslem and LeBron lead Heat to series-tying win

Pace Eff eFG FT/FG OREB% TOr
Miami 83.0 102.4 49.3% 26.5 29.4 18.1
Chicago 90.4 36.0% 19.5 32.7 12.0

 

Early in game two it almost looked like the Bulls were going to simply continue the rebounding dominance they had in the series opener. An opening stretch where they found themselves shooting abysmally but still in a close game because they were getting that many more opportunities. Continuing like that, you figured the Bulls would start making more shots, wear down the Heat physically again, and it'd be another victory.

The problems cropped up with that theory: while the Bulls did well on their own end at the offensive glass, it wasn't to the obscene degree as in game one. And the Heat wound up far more doing damage themselves on their end than in that first game. And through it all, the Bulls never did start making many shots.

And that was from pretty much anywhere on the floor. The Bulls had a lot of dunks in the first half (Luol Deng with the rare strong finish in transition) but as the game wore on missed more and more other close attempts, finishing 3-18 in shots between 3 and 9 feet from the rim. Derrick Rose had a very rough game trying to make his usual spectacular inside finishes, a 7-23 night where several of those makes were on midrange jumpers. That last bit makes it a bit worrisome, as those are shots he regularly isn't hitting that proficiently, so it could've been an even worse night for him. This is coming off a game one performance where Rose also wasn't able to get many inside baskets, so it's something to watch for as the Heat have proven to be capable of limiting Rose a bit in that regard.

Rose's point total in game one was in sync with his team in being buoyed by 3-point shots, and Wednesday night the 3-point line was another area the Bulls were awful. The Bulls were only 3-20 all game, and one of those makes was a half-court heave from Deng to end the first quarter (hey, if we take away such misses from Rose's stats, then...). It was an underrated part of game one's offensive rebounding dominance that it not only led to tip-ins, but also 3-pointers as regaining possession would have the Miami defense scrambling. Korver's one 3 was in transition and Bogans' make was off an offensive rebound, and without as many of those looks tonight, the Heat defense showed themselves able close out better. The Bulls were also simply just missing a lot...again, from everywhere. Even had 10 bricks from the FT line, shooting 61.5%.

The difference in creating those second chance opportunities (and limiting it for the Heat) was Udonis Haslem. It's a low bar to be even a solid role player on the Heat, so his contribution and the amount of minutes was significant. For all the talk about how much more of a 'grimy' team the Bulls are, Haslem has had that role for years on the Heat, including in their title-winning incarnation. A performance that can only be described as Taj Gibson-esque, Haslem was rebounding, hitting jumpers, and emphatically finishing inside of aggressive takes on the fast break. Not to oversell his contributions but again, when taken relative to what the Heat usually get out of their bench it's an important part of this series if he's 'back'. This was far more minutes than he had played all postseason after missing nearly all of the regular campaign, but the 4 days of rest may negate that.

Taj Gibson himself didn't have a Taj Gibson-esque performance, but he and Omer Asik played fantastically especially in the 2nd half run where the Bulls closed the gap to a 73-73 game midway through the 4th quarter. Asik was unbelievable defensively, able to switch out and contain LeBron into a bad jumper, and going straight up to defend Dwayne Wade drives. And credit to the officials for correctly no-calling those contests, though they don't deserve much positive mention considering a really awful beginning of the 2nd quarter where the Bulls were quickly racked up with team fouls on questionable (and in the CJ Watson loose-ball case, awful) calls.

Asik wound up busting up his chin on one of those Wade shot-challenges, and exited the game. From then on the Heat, and LeBron James specifically, took over. He's really really good, and as Sham pointed out post-game has an ability to simply shoot over tight defenses late, whereas Rose has to rely on a much more difficult journey to the basket. If one was worried about close games in the Atlanta series because of Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford being comparable shot-makers to Rose (and I was), similar finishes in this series are that much more scary. The 'Heat can't win close games' crap is just that, as evidenced by last night (and this happened a couple times against Boston as well) where they took a close game and made it not-so-close by their brilliant play, yet won't get credit for a statistically close victory.

Meanwhile, Rose was trying to do the same against another very good defense but to much less success, and unlike James had zero help with him on the floor. Korver's struggles were to the point where he perhaps should've been benched as to at least not hurt the team defensively, and Boozer sat the entire 4th quarter. This happened in game one as well but was overshadowed because of Taj Gibson's fantastic effort, but Boozer again a main culprit in the Bulls not being able to finish inside. Though he's improved his overall game from the completely abysmal state it was earlier in the playoffs, that particular way to help the Bulls offense has yet to fully appear. And in games like game two where the Bulls were unable to completely overwhelm the Heat with their size and depth, it'll become a close contest where Rose is going to need someone else to help. Thibs is finding himself in a tough spot where while he has lineups that have shown a great capacity to lock down the Heat on defense, yet realizes it's not completely sustainable and tries to get any kind of offensive help in the game to complement Rose. Boozer hadn't done it inside, and Korver couldn't outside, and they watched LeBron able to do both on his own.

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