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NBA Playoffs Matchup Mastery: Should the Bulls surrender to LeBron and go big?

Apr 19, 2010, 5:02 PM EDT

So, the Bulls got ramrodded in Game 1. It happens to 8th seeds. But they did make a furious comeback and weren’t completely outside the context of a comeback. So is there anything the Bulls can do to try and combat the numerous advantages the Cavs have tonight?

The answer lies at the heart of the most dreaded of NBA tactics: smallball.

I know, lunacy, right? Going smallball against a team with Shaq is like trying to bring the funk at a Confederate Railroad concert. But that’s exactly what the Bulls did at times, and it hurt them. It may be time to focus on winning the rebounding battle by going big, and simply forsake the ability to even deter the game’s best player.

LeBron James had a quiet night comparatively speaking in Game 1, but also had his way with Luol Deng to the point you can’t consider it a favorable matchup. Plus, Deng allowed James to kickstart the rest of the offense, and that’s the worst of both worlds. He’s going to get his points. But if you throw yourself at him and allow him to open the floor, that’s the Cavaliers at their best.

Meanwhile, Taj Gibson, who is undersized to begin with, was dominated on the glass by Anderson Varejao. The Bulls had some success when Hakim Warrick, who is the same height but with better length, and veteran knowledge came in. Moving Gibson to the bench in reserve of Deng may not be a bad idea. Even if the King torches Gibson (as he would), that’s the devil you know. Locking down the perimeter is much more important for the Bulls, if Warrick, Gibson, and Noah combined can provide some rebounding.

Another possible adjustment on the outside is to use a second half rotation of Warrick at the three “guarding” LeBron, with Brad Miller sliding to the four, and Noah at the five. That puts a long, athletic defender at the three, Brad Miller at the four to combat Varejao, and Noah still trying to handle Shaq at the five. You can switch Miller and Noah depending on if Shaq or Zydrunas Ilgauskas is in.

None of this will matter if Derrick Rose can’t keep Mo Williams in front of him. The answer to that riddle may lie in switching Kirk Hinrich on to him, to pester him, since Hinrich’s shot has gone cold (again) and you need to save Rose’s energy anyway.

The common thought against powerhouse teams is to try and outrun them. And certainly, the Bulls’ halfcourt offense does not lend itself to conifdence about their ability to score with a bigger lineup. But surrendering offensive rebounds and being overpowered was definitely not the formula for success. At this point, there may not be anything that is worthless to try.

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