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Heat can't run, Bulls make them hide

Steve Rosenbloom

The RosenBlog

11:24 AM EDT, May 17, 2011

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Dwyane Wade said the Bulls’ aggressive defense in the second half of Game 1 made sure “we weren't comfortable in offensive sets," and I’m wondering, the Heat have “sets’’?

Wait, isolation plays are considered “sets’’? I mean, the Heat’s idea of a half-court offense is never be forced to run a half-court offense. The Heat are built around running the open court. But the Bulls pounded the boards and didn’t turn over the ball, so the Heat couldn’t run.

Truth is, nobody runs on the Bulls. Nobody runs on a Tom Thibodeau team. Not for two weeks, anyway.

It seems like LeBron James forgot that little detail while celebrating his quest of beating the Celtics. The guy who designed Boston’s Buddy Ryan-like defense was waiting for James in Chicago. Oops.

You play these Bulls, you get no easy run-outs. The Heat managed 10 points on the fast break. The whole game, I’m talking. They had four points on the first two baskets of the game. That leaves six points in the final 47 minutes or so. I can’t do math, but that sounds like a good ratio.

If you do get a couple easy run-outs, Thibodeau calls timeout and yells at everybody, and then the Bulls play defense more relentlessly than Thibodeau yells. Point is, if you want to beat a Thibodeau defense, you’re going to have to make shots.

Chris Bosh made shots. Someone in that group was going to. Bosh went for 30 on 12-of-18 shooting in Game 1, but the Bulls will take that deal. All series, the Bulls will take that deal, believe me. Chris Bosh, come on down. Play the “Showcase Showdown.’’ Just leave Wade and James in the audience like Game 1.

Bosh whined before last summer that he believed he was a free-agent centerpiece, which is as funny as it is unrealistic. Look, the Raptors made him the centerpiece, and how’d that work out for everybody? I’m sure the Bulls are all for making Bosh the king right now. Go ahead, pal, show everybody how you win something as a centerpiece. The Bulls would love to say that, but they can’t. I can say it. I just did. The Bulls, though, are too respectful. So respectful, in fact, that you’re waiting for the Bulls to offer the Heat a box of tissues.

Whatever, the Heat know they have to make some major adjustments. They won’t call them “major,’’ of course. That would sound desperate and panicky. Losing one game, a road game, at that, isn’t a desperate thing. The Heat simply might have Wade and James drive more, get fouled, go to the line --- basically force the officials to choose two superstars over the Bulls’ one, or whatever the NBA’s conspiracy du jour is to get this thing to seven games.

But most of the other changes the Heat have talked about in finding a way to beat the Bulls for the first time all season appear to be pretty big.

James said he’d do “whatever it takes’’ to win Game 2, http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/bulls/ct-spt-0517-heat-bits--20110516,0,4450609.story which is an interesting offer from someone who decided not to play Game 1. James’ point was he would even guard Derrick Rose the entire game. Rose has seen big defensive covers this postseason, but nobody as good as James. Lesser long-armed defenders have poked the ball loose and ruined passing lanes, which made Rose a turnover machine early in the postseason and could lead to the kind of open-court baskets the Heat considers a set offense.

James, however, ought to ask Wade about guarding Rose. Wade tried that in Game 1 and left the court looking like he needed oxygen or an IV. I mean, the guy never took a shot in the fourth quarter. If James wants to kill himself checking Rose and perhaps have no legs to help Miami’s offense, hallelujah.

Speaking of Miami’s offense, Heat players, starting with Wade and James, say they need to move the ball more and move it quicker. That always sounds like a good strategy against the Bulls’ defense. That also sounds like a strategy the Bulls would favor against this opponent.

The Bulls load up one side and dare opponents to move the ball to the weak side, figuring that their sound positional play and quickness will lead to a steal, a deflection or a contested chance, sometimes a shot-clock violation, something before the opponent finds the open man. The Bulls are going to play opponents hard all over the court, seemingly double-teaming everyone, but the ball moves faster than even Bulls defenders’ feet, so teams stress ball movement against Thibodeau’s overcommitting defense.

That’s the game the Heat say they want to play. Perfect. Great. Yes, bring that strategy to the floor for Game 2 and all the other games. Wade and James can move the ball to Mike Bibby and Joel Anthony. The Bulls are all for that. Ballgame. Series. Kleenex.