The Bulls offensive limitations have been beaten like a dead horse. It’s obvious that they don’t have players that can create their own shots or consistently hit "bad" shots. The Bulls offense requires movement to be effective. But, the last 5 minutes has been three guys standing around while one sets a pick for the ball handler. The players certainly know they need motion. The players certainly love to win. Is there another explanation for their 4th quarter stand-around-offense other than they are physically and mentally spent by that point? Thibodeau’s stubborn refusal to give his key guys more rest is the main culprit of the first two playoff games.
In game two tonight, the Bulls scored one field goal in the last five minutes, a Hinrich jump shot. They missed their last five shots and mixed in a turnover (the drought actually started at the seven minute mark). Then they missed their first seven shots in overtime. Butler was obviously spent and Augustin didn’t look so hot either. After being the Bulls best player for much the game, he missed his last four shots and didn’t take a shot in overtime. Noah looked exhausted too, throwing poor passes, dropping a rebound out of bound and not driving to the rim like he had early. In related news, Butler played 53 minutes, (already 43 at 5 minute mark) and Noah played 46 minutes (already 36 at 5 minute mark). Augustin played 41 minutes which might not seem to be a lot until you realize he sat for the first 9 minutes of the game. Yes, our diminutive guard who we depend on for most of our scoring played 41 of the next 44 minutes. Meanwhile Mike Dunleavy was glued to the bench for the last five minutes of regulation and overtime, except of course for a brief appearance where he assisted on a Noah layup with under a minute left. Of course, down 2 with a shot to tie or win, he was again sitting on the bench.
Game one was almost worse, since the Bulls weren’t intentionally milking clock. 2-10 from the field under five minutes, only scoring on an offensive rebound and a layup when the Wizards were overplaying the three point line. Without movement, it’s hard to take advantage of a team overplaying your best shooter. Although the minutes weren’t quite so crazy in game one, Butler reached 44 minutes and Noah still played 40. That's a lot of minutes of chasing Beal and Wall around and banging with Nene, all while playing out the string of help and recover so crucial to the Bulls success.
The Bulls survive with manic defensive intensity and enough off ball cuts to free up some open shots. Both of these require huge amounts of energy. Butler and Noah probably work harder on a per minute basis than anyone. They don’t have the skills or athleticism to succeed at 90% effort. They succeed because they play at 100% more than anyone. They arguably should be playing less than their opponents, not more.
It’s not a matter of fairness, it’s a matter of effectiveness. Others on this site have noted that Butler has struggled with his shooting and playmaking in 4th quarters (I’m sorry, I can’t remember where I just read it). Deng used to struggle in late situations as well. Notably, Miami felt comfortable hiding a lesser defender on Deng and sticking LeBron on Rose in the Eastern Conference Finals a few years ago. Thibodeau has ample evidence that his players' play suffers. It’s time to take the risk of playing a little more Tony Snell and even a bit more Carlos Boozer or Nazr Mohammed so the team can finish strong. Also expanding his late game rotations past alternating between Hinrich and Dunleavy would help too.