You heard it here first if you already haven’t witnessed it firsthand tonight. The NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals are over. The Chicago Bulls have no chance of winning against this Miami Heat team. Not in a seven game series. Not when the Bulls vaunted defense is neutered by NBA referees when they decide to play defense. Not when the Bulls don’t follow their game plan. Not when the Bulls again can’t make a basket. Not when the Bulls are bullied, pushed around, out-muscled, out-hustled and out-classed. Not if they play defense like they did tonight.
Believe what you want about the Bulls, but know this: The Bulls are in the midst of learning a serious lesson and if they don’t get their act together soon, their season will be over. When you turn on your TV tomorrow, I can almost guarantee that you will hear ESPN’s Skip Bayless say the series is over and he won’t be the only one that holds that opinion.
ESPN, TNT and Comcast Sports Net, analysts have all talked about the benches being a factor, but they are absolutely wrong. What it comes down to is Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh vs. Derrick Rose, and the level of defense each team plays and that’s it. The rest is all coffee house chatter. The problem with this Chicago Bulls team is that I don’t trust them. Not in these playoffs. They have played two good games in a lackluster first round matchup against an inferior Indiana Pacers team. They played two somewhat dominant games in the second round against a very beatable Atlanta Hawks team that played even less physical than the Pacers. The Bulls played their most dominant game of the post-season in Game 1 of the Conference Finals and haven’t shown up since.
For the last three days leading up to Game 3, I’ve heard the Bulls talk extensively about wanting to push the pace, attack before Miami sets up their half-court defense, be aggressive. What I saw tonight was the Bulls walking the ball up nearly every possession, settling for jump shots, no movement of the ball, and no drive, kick and shoot. Too many missed shots under the basket. As for the Bulls players, what happened to Joakim Noah and Luol Deng? Kyle Korver’s shot still MIA. Carlos Boozer offensive game appeared tonight, but as usual, his defense was atrocious.
On defense, the Bulls had too many breakdowns, bad or no rotations, little help defense and virtually no aggression. Nobody in a red jersey touched Chris Bosh tonight and it showed. Little intensity, passion and desire in the 4th quarter equals yet another winnable loss. Miami seemed to get to all the loose balls and seemed to have all the bounces go their way.
As for the Heat, give them credit, they executed their game plan. They let go of Game 1, made their adjustments and cranked it up a notch. They executed the Bulls game plan better than the Bulls did while they were at it. They played defense the way the Bulls have played defense the entire season, something the Bulls have seemed to forget to play at times throughout the playoffs.
Now that the Heat have figured the Bulls out, shut down Derrick Rose and wrestled home court advantage away from the Bulls, how will coach Tom Thibodeau and his young team respond? So far, the Bulls have had absolutely no answers for the Heat’s adjustments, nor have they matched the Heat’s intensity and hustle. Game 4 becomes critical, the most important game of the season. And by the way, all the pressure is squarely on the Bulls. I can guarantee you this, the Bulls will learn a lesson on Tuesday night. Only time will tell if they are mentally strong enough to learn the lesson now, next year or if they will ever learn it.