Bulls vs. Heat Game 3 preview: Chicago needs to slow it down

USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls were smoked by the Heat in Game 2, and to have a chance in Game 3, they must slow the pace and take back the paint.

After battling hard for a good portion of the first half of Game 2, the Bulls were run out of the gym from the tail end of the second quarter through the rest of the game in a 115-78 loss. LeBron James and the Heat offense was in high gear pretty much from the start, and they finished with a ridiculous shooting percentage of 60.0 percent.

Looking closer at the numbers, it's easy to see why the Heat offense was able to roll so easily. First of all, they did make shots that they missed in Game 1. After bricking a ton of wide open looks in Game 1, Miami buried 9-of-18 three-pointers in Game 2. Norris Cole provided a huge lift, going 4-of-4 and knocking down two important ones at the end of the first half.

But perhaps more importantly, the Bulls allowed the Heat to get out in transition and get easy baskets in the paint. Miami won the fast break battle 20-2, taking advantage of 19 Bulls turnovers. The Heat scored a whopping 28 points off those turnovers, and when that happens, the Bulls simply have no chance. Chicago allowed only nine fast break points in Game 1.

Even more shocking was the disparity in points in the paint. The Bulls are supposed to have the advantage down low, and they usually tailor their defense to pack the paint and force inefficient jumpers. They were able to have great success doing that in Game 1, allowing just 32 points in the paint while scoring 40. But in Game 2? The Bulls lost that battle 56-18, which pretty much says it all. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have been struggling from the outside, but they were able to find a rhythm by scoring on layups and dunks. Furthermore, the Bulls were outrebounded 41-28, which is a recipe for a disaster.

SB Nation's Mike Prada did a nice job detailing how the Heat were able to get so many easy buckets, and breakdowns by the Bulls contributed to that. Prada highlighted Miami's cutting and transition game, and he also noted that the Bulls didn't make their usual concerted effort to get back on defense, instead opting to crash the offensive glass hard. In Game 3, the Bulls need to do a much better job getting back and not allowing those easy baskets.

Offensively, the Bulls obviously must shoot better (just 35.5 percent in Game 2) and not commit so many dumb turnovers. Getting more quality looks against the aggressive Heat defense is much easier said than done, but the Bulls have shown the ability in spots this series to get good shots using their ball movement. Dealing with the trapping is an issue, especially with Nate Robinson being so small, but they'll have to figure out a way to beat them. And for the love of God, the lazy cross court passes really have to stop.

Carlos Boozer also has to get it going. I mentioned yesterday how he has spent most of this series bricking jumpers, so either he needs to just start hitting those, or make more of an effort to score in the paint. This is especially the case when he's being guarded by smaller defenders like Shane Battier. Boozer has to be cognizant of Battier's flopping, but if he's smart, he can dominate that matchup.

Things are obviously going to be tough for the Bulls. While a bloodthirsty home crowd will be behind them, it will take another monumental effort to pull off another victory, especially with Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich still sidelined. It will also be interesting to see how the game is called after things out of hand on Wednesday. David Stern has called in his chief minion Joey Crawford, so another Oprah-like handout of technical fouls should be expected. On a related note, Taj Gibson was fined $25,000 for his rant, but not suspended. So that's good.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.

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