Following their Game 5 and the NBA Eastern Conference Finals series loss to the Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls hopefully learned some valuable lessons. Like the Oklahoma City Thunder, the youth and inexperience of Bulls ended up being their undoing. Nobody thought the Bulls would get this far in the playoffs, never mind finishing the regular season with the NBA’s best record. But the Miami Heat did to the Bulls what the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks couldn’t do: capitalize on the flaws of this particular Chicago team. So what did the Bulls learn from this series?
1. More balanced scoring is needed from this team. A reliable two guard is an immediate need, inside scoring is a secondary need.
2. Young teams like the Bulls and Thunder won’t get the same calls as the Heat and the Dallas Mavericks. One look at the foul differentials is all you need to see. In Game 5 alone, the Bulls had 15 more FG attempts, 5 more FG made, 1 more made 3 pointers, 5 more offensive rebounds, 6 more assists, 1 more steal, and 5 fewer turnovers than the Heat. The only significant stat the Heat exceeded the Bulls was FT attempts (+12) and FT made (+10) and the Bulls were at home. In an 83-80 loss, this was significant and the officiating in this series was questionable at best.
3. Derrick Rose can’t do it alone. He needs some serious help. This team is so close but yet so far. Gar Forman and John Paxson have some work to do.
4. What are we to make of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah spending significant minutes on the bench in the 4th quarter of playoff games? That’s a about $30 million in talent sitting out crunch time. That’s a HUGE concern, Boozer in particular. On the NBA’s biggest stage, Boozer was a major disappointment, both offensively and defensively, and is now the biggest question mark for the Bulls going into the offseason.
5. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is an outstanding coach, but he’s not a magician. He couldn’t make the adjustments needed to keep up with the Heat, mostly because the Bulls lacked the firepower of the Heat. The only questionable move was why Kurt Thomas didn’t get more playing time earlier in the series, but ultimately that debate is insignificant to the final outcome of this series.
While I don’t want to take anything away from the Miami Heat, they had to play on top of their game and play all out to beat the Bulls. And they did just that. Despite the Game 1 result, the remaining games were all close games. One more made shot, one more foul for or against was the difference between these two teams.
The Bulls are not far away from being a perennial contender for NBA championships for years to come, but this offseason may be as significant as last offseason in terms of advancing to the next level. Talent ultimately wins in the long run. The Heat had more talent than the Bulls this year and it showed. So where do the Bulls go from here? More to come on this question.