Bulls looking for a shot in Miami


May 19

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To paraphrase the old joke about the condemned man with a last wish, he was asked his preferred method of execution. He picked the Bulls since that made it less than a 40 percent chance they’d hit anything.

Derrick Rose: 37.8 percent

Luol Deng: 40 percent

Carlos Boozer: 40 percent

Joakim Noah: 34.8 percent

Keith Bogans: 33.3 percent     

Those are the shooting percentages of the Bulls starters in the two games against the Miami Heat with Game 3 in Miami Sunday. Only Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer, who don’t shoot much, are shooting more than 50 percent in the series. The team shooting percentage is 39.1 percent.

“We got forced into taking a lot of tough shots and had shots go in and out,” Kyle Korver, shooting just 20 percent, said after Game 2. “No one had a great shooting night. Usually we have to have one or two guys to have a good (shooting) game. We have to move the ball better and make shots and we obviously did not do that.”

So the question would be why.

The obvious would be Miami’s defense.

The Heat were second to the Bulls in field goal defense this season. The Bulls were first in defensive efficiency and the Heat fifth. The games have been brutal, physical, every-possession-counts basketball, literally exhausting to watch.

By contrast, the Western Conference finals between Dallas and Oklahoma City seems polite by comparison with many more skilled efforts and other than Kendrick Perkins’ growling a relatively sedate affair.

Although the Bulls have the size advantage, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are exceptionally quick and long armed defenders who close on shooters quickly. The Heat has concentrated on Rose with a hard blitz off the pick and roll and then Wade and at the end of the game James defending. Rose is quick enough to beat either, but Miami has stacked bodies in the lane to close out on Rose drives. The Heat also has chosen Korver to show on him coming off screens, giving him a double team look. Korver has been giving up the ball more as a result.

Plus, this is not a great shooting Bulls team.

Bogans is 39.5 percent for his career. Deng is 47 percent. Taj Gibson is 48.2 percent. Korver is 43.1 percent. Rose is 46.8 percent. C.J. Watson is 43.7 percent. Both Boozer and Noah are above 50 percent, but have not shot well in the playoffs with both well below 50 percent.

“We have to do a better job of taking shots when they are there,” said Noah. “That and our effort are things we can control.”

For the playoffs, the Bulls as a team are shooting 42 percent. In this series, Miami has shot 47.1 percent in both games.

There also is the possibility of fatigue, especially for Rose. He is averaging 40 minutes per game for the playoffs and in this series after just under 42 in Game 2. And it’s been a long season after having played last summer for USA Basketball.

Sure, he’s 22, but defenses have attacked, doubled, harassed and focused on him all season and in every playoff game with traps, doubles, hard fouls, running him through brutal screens when he’s on defense and now multiple defenders, including Wade and James.

“I think I was just missing shots, flipping the ball up, not going strong, trying to get fouled,” said Rose after Game 2.  “It was just one of them nights.”

The Heat know Rose is the so called head of the snake, which is a description we’ve heard in every playoff series thus far.

Stop Rose you stop the Bulls?

“We tried different bodies on him all night,” said Wade. “Mario (Chalmers), myself, Mike (Bibby) all had him.  We made it tough for him when he got the ball.  He puts pressure on our defense whenever he has the ball.  I thought we defended really well.”

Rose shot seven of 23 in Game 2 and Deng five of 15. In the fourth quarter, the Bulls shot 25 percent and zero for 11 from everyone but Gibson. In scoring 29 second half points at home, the Bulls shot 29.7 percent in the half, zero of eight on threes and just seven of 12 on free throws. They held Miami to 37 points, but could not score enough, or much, their fourth quarter total a franchise playoff low. Plus, Miami was the one getting to the basket with a 50-34 edge in points in the paint.

In the series against Miami the Bulls still have forced more turnovers, and gotten more rebounds, especially on the offensive end, 36-16. The Bulls have a big edge in assists and have shot more free throws. The Bulls as a result have gotten 33 more shot attempts in two games, but have made just two more field goals. They have become the team that cannot shoot straight.

Whether it’s Miami’s defensive effort or their own relentless style of play that’s not leaving much left for the offensive end, it’s where the Bulls have to change the game to get back on top in this series.

And that’s generally not as easy on the road. In the three regular season games between the teams, Miami only shot better the one game they played in Miami. In that game, the Heat shot 48.5 percent. The Bulls overcame an 11-point third quarter deficit to win that one down the stretch, shooting 50 percent in the fourth quarter and shooting 10 of 12 from the free throw line in the fourth to four of six for Miami. The Bulls will need that kind of aggression again, as well as the 12 for 23 shooting Rose put up in that last game between the teams in Miami.

The Bulls didn’t practice Thursday with the three days off following Game 2. They’ll be back at it Friday and Saturday before leaving for Miami and the heat of the playoff cauldron. They hope to find their shooting as hot as the mood of the moment.

“Just because you are home doesn’t make a series easy,” Gibson said after Game 2 about the Bulls losing at home. “There is a lot at stake. You still have to go out and do your job. It comes down to toughness and heart and who hits first. This is playoff basketball, physical, guys banging and playing for a championship. We’re both going for one goal and guys are really fighting.”

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