Heat can load three big guns, Bulls have one
By RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com May 22, 2011 11:28PM
MIAMI, FL - MAY 22: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls walks back to the bench against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 22, 2011 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\GYI0064866045.jpg
Updated: June 24, 2011 12:29AM
MIAMI — Stars play big in big games. We hold that truth to be self-evident.
And that, friends, is the Bulls’ problem. The Heat has stars, plural. The Bulls have a star, singular. And no matter how singular Derrick Rose is, if he’s not at the top of his game, the Bulls are in serious trouble. For the second game in a row, he didn’t resemble himself, and the result was a 96-85 victory by the Heat in Game 3 on Sunday.
What made the loss harder to swallow for the Bulls was that Carlos Boozer, so often a disappointment in these playoffs, had a monster game with 26 points and 17 rebounds. Boozer isn’t a star in any astronomer’s view of the heavens, but he played like one Sunday night.
All that was missing was the kind of huge game from Rose that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. Rose played better than he played in Game 2, when he shot 7-for-23 from the field, but he didn’t play well enough. He had 20 points on 8-for-19 shooting and only five assists. Underwhelming. If that sounds overly harsh, too bad. Much is expected of those who have given us much.
The Bulls aren’t finished in the Eastern Conference finals. They’re down 2-1. But if Miami continues to make life miserable for Rose, they’re toast.
The Bulls didn’t run enough in transition Sunday night, and whenever Rose drove to the basket out of their half-court offense, he was met by a mountain range of defenders. He looked out of sorts, and although you have to give credit to Miami for that, it didn’t help that Rose got very little help from anyone other than Boozer.
Joakim Noah, who used a homophobic slur against a Heat fan in the first quarter, finished with one point and five rebounds. He was a fizzling failure all around.
In the third quarter, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau finally got what he had been asking for leading into Game 3: Rose received the ball in transition, saw disarray in front of him and went to the basket. He scored on a drive, then hit a three and later added a runner. That’s the Rose we saw all season. But then that wall closed in on him. He got called for charging in the fourth quarter.
And that was it. The only way for the Bulls to win this game was at a gallop. The Heat’s half-court defense made Rose look small and alone. I never thought I’d ever write that sentence about the most valuable player, but there it is.
At halftime, he had no assists. None, as in zero. You said to yourself, the Bulls can’t win like this, and yet they only trailed the Heat 43-40 heading into the third quarter.
The good news was that Rose was finding the cracks in the Miami defense and going hard to the hoop. The bad news was that he was 4-for-12 from the floor.
Rose couldn’t do anything about Chris Bosh because he wasn’t guarding him. That made Rose just like the rest of his teammates — nobody was guarding him. When the Heat’s third option scores whenever he wants, wherever he wants on whomever he wants, you know you’re in trouble. Bosh scored 34 points, making 13 of his last 15 shots.
The Heat can get by if LeBron James is having a bad game. It can lean on Bosh and Dwyane Wade. If Wade is off, James and Bosh can pick up the slack. The Big Three scored a combined 73 points in Game 3.
If Rose doesn’t play his best when Miami is at its best, the Bulls don’t have much of a chance.
Now the focus falls on Thibodeau. After most practices, he and Rose watch film together to see how best to attack the other team’s defense. Thibs is going to have to be refitted for his genius hat. He has to figure out ways to get Rose free in time for Game 4. If he doesn’t, how does a 3-1 Heat lead feel?
It seems obvious: The Bulls need to run. Let Rose create. Let him improvise. Let him go. Rose in a half-court offense against this good a Miami defense is suicide.
“I tried to let my teammates create for others,’’ he said. “That’s what I made the team try to do. Sometimes I tried to beat the double team, and sometimes I just tried to pass and make it easy.’’
And that’s just it: I don’t want to see Luol Deng trying to create. I want to see Rose doing the creating. The options are limited when the Bulls aren’t shooting well. Rose can dish off all he wants, but if his team shoots 41.6 from the floor, which it did Sunday, forget it.
The Bulls hadn’t lost two in a row since early February. The only way to stop it from being their first three-game losing streak of the season is if Rose shows up in a big way in Game 4. What’s it going to be, kid?