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Bulls-Heat Game 2 thoughts

It's tough to figure out whether that 4th quarter run by the Bulls in game 2 really meant anything. With a lineup of Hinrich/Gordon/Deng/Nocioni/Chandler they took away half of a 20 point deficit, and even got within 4 after a Nocioni 3-pointer with 1:15 to go before finally bowing out.

For the second straight game it was Chris Duhon replacing Deng in the stretch run that irked me the most. Although statistically they didn't have a big dropoff in production, who knows what that original 4th quarter lineup could've done if they stayed in the game for the duration.

But it's likely all that doesn't matter, the bigger question is how did the Bulls get down 20+ points in the first place?

In a word: defense. In these first two games the Bulls' 6th-best league defense has allowed 113 points on 50% shooting.

There have been suggestions regarding double-teaming Shaq less and double teaming Wade more (especially down the stretch). I've harped on the idea that the 3-guard lineup should not be played often, and Eric Piatkowski should be playing even less. But I'm beginning to think its their offensive execution that's causing the Bulls' defense to break down.

The Bulls did play at a fast pace this season, and this was supposedly an advantage going into the series. The idea being that they would be to use their younger and quicker players to attack the basket, and especially Shaq. But they've so far gone too fast for their own good. The Bulls may be quicker, but they do not have the ballhandlers to be a true running team. Gordon, Deng and Nocioni are careless with the ball, their bigs either aren't fast or have tiny girl hands. Even Hinrich has shown poor decision-making in stretches. Beyond the bad passes are the meandering drives to the hoop, where O'Neal can sit and wait for the block instead of having to leave his comfort zone by guarding the pick and roll.

As a result the Bulls have averaged 17 turnovers in the series, and allowed the Heat to be the fast-break team. The Bulls do not have the type of individual defenders to lockdown their corresponding opposition, they need everyone back and dug in, enabling them to do the things that had them allow the lowest FG% in the league. They are not a perfect defense, noticeably with the propensity to foul, but if they can't get back to set up, they allow the Heat too many easy baskets. And when they're getting those easy points added to what their superstars can get on a nightly basis, the Heat can put up a lot of points.

I'm not saying the Bulls should walk the ball upcourt, but what they should pick their spots better. Do not run for the sake of running,  that speed can be just as advantageous in a half-court set. Run the disciplined offense that we've seen most of the year, with relentless picks for Hinrich and Gordon, making Shaq work outside the paint, and freeing up shooters. It isn't as much a strategy as it is a discipline. It may cost a few transition baskets in spots, but it'll also keep the turnovers down, and not allow the Heat to turn the Bulls fast-paced strategy against them.

bonus: has their playoff stats up. Read and digest.