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NBA Playoffs: Can Bulls find answers to Heat’s questions?

May 23, 2011, 12:54 AM EDT

Heat's James and Haslem celebrate a basket against the Bulls during Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Finals NBA basketball series in Miami Reuters

LeBron James didn’t really get going as a scorer (holding him to 22 points is keeping them in check). Same with Dwyane Wade who had just 17 points. The Bulls grabbed 32.5 percent of their missed shots for offensive rebounds. The Bulls limited the Heat’s transition points. Carlos Boozer put up 26 points with 17 boards.

A lot of things went right for the Bulls — and they still lost 96-85. They now trail 2-1 to the Heat.

If all those things to right and they lose, what does it take for them to win? Game 3 felt like the Heat starting to take control of the series.

The battle of the power forwards — Chris Bosh outscoring and outplaying Boozer — will be the big storyline. And that mattered. Bosh dropped 34 and was key in the second and fourth quarters.

But that was part of a larger issue for the Bulls — the Heat’s schemes and matchups are asking questions of the Bulls they seem to have no answers for. Like where is the second scorer for the Bulls? And if all three of Miami’s top three get going, does it matter? Sure, the Bulls are only one game down in this series. But can they find enough answers to those questions to win three of the next four games? Because that is what it will take to advance.

The most important of those questions is who will score if Derrick Rose can’t? Rose is facing hard double teams, walls of players when he attacks the rim, and the result has been forcing someone else to score. During the regular season he was relentless and just found a way to get it done, that’s why he is MVP. But in the playoffs he needs help.

“It always comes down to your three primary scorers,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said in a postgame press conference on NBA TV. “You have to try to make it hard on those three. That’s the case with every team.”

The Heat didn’t make it hard on Boozer, who was the secondary scorer for the Bulls with his 26 points on 19 shots in Game 3.

But that came with a cost — Boozer is not a good defender and his primary assignment with Bosh. And Bosh went off. He had room to operate early and got his confidence, then by the end was spinning into the middle off a poorly-positioned Boozer for crowd-pleasing dunks. Taj Gibson off the bench is a better defender than Boozer and Gibson brings some offense, but this is one of the challenges Thibodeau and the Bulls face — do you sit a hot scorer for more defense? The Bulls face the same issue at the two with Ronnie Brewer or Kyle Korver. Off the bench

Erik Spoelstra doesn’t face that offense-for-defense issue — Bosh, LeBron, Wade all are good at both ends. It makes the Heat that much more difficult.

The other issue the Bulls face is who is their third scorer? Luol Deng? He can shoot and dropped 14 in this one, but is he steady enough and really a big enough threat?

This game had an interesting twist in the Bulls offense, — when the double came to Rose he slid the ball to Joakim Noah near the free throw line. Then when the defense came at Noah he made some nifty passes to Boozer and others, leading to Noah having six assists on the night. But by the fourth quarter the Heat had adjusted and they didn’t send anyone to Noah — they dared him to beat them with a jumper or on the drive. Neither worked, and the Bulls offense struggled. It is easier to make the Bulls struggle.

Meanwhile, the Heat found their offensive groove. Their third scorer is a former All-Star in Bosh who can do a lot of damage (as he has in tow of the three games this series). The Bulls couldn’t stop the Heat once they got going — in the last three quarters the Heat shot 60 percent (second), 50 percent (third) and 56 percent (fourth). The Heat are getting their points against the best defense in the league.

The Heat also are getting enough rebounds, with Wade leading the team with nine. They are causing problems with their pressure defense. They are taking control of the game.

The series is far from over. But those are a lot of areas for the Bulls to fix, and not with easy answers. Bosh may well not shoot as well next game, but James and Wade likely will shoot better.

Maybe the Bulls have answers. Maybe this series will head back to the United Center for Game 5 tied 2-2. But it’s not easy to see how right now, because they have no easy answers to some very difficult questions.

  1. sdmfla - May 23, 2011 at 1:47 AM

    Kurt, you said Bosh is a “former Allstar”??? Um, he was this year too!!!!

  2. icu84bs - May 23, 2011 at 2:57 AM

    No love for Lebron from Kurt. Kurt states LBJ is held in check with 22 points but fails to mention his 10 assists and his amazing defence in game 3. LBJ has had some missteps in his career (okay, he has been a dick on a couple of occasions) but Kurt should maintain some semblance of objectivity and give credit where credit is due.

  3. dvic13 - May 23, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    I’m not sure what you saw that I didn’t, but Boozer doesn’t guard Bosh. That is Noah assignment. In fact it is anybody but Boozer. Boozer was guarding the other big all game. He was the help defender when Bosh spun and dunked.

    I think Boozer should be guarding Bosh, because he is a waste of a help defender, and terrible ay rotating back to his man. Let him guard Bosh, and let Noah be the one who roam and help.

  4. gmsingh - May 23, 2011 at 10:54 AM

    The Bulls don’t stand a chance, because judging from the referrees’ calls in games 2 and 3, the series is clearly fixed. The NBA stands to make the most money with “superstar” LeBron James in the Finals, and that’s what the calls against the Bulls are ensuring. The Bulls would win in a fair contest.

    • southbeachtalent - May 23, 2011 at 11:55 AM

      hahahahahahahahahahaa that was good. I needed that..

      Monday’s suck!

    • miami4allday - May 23, 2011 at 12:07 PM

      They dont stand a chance is correct! lol

  5. cam3420 - May 23, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    The bulls cant keep up with this team unless they figure out there defense and make the shots wen they find the holes in the defense, u cant miss open looks and layups and charge players on fast breaks. Also SLOW THE GAME DOWN wen u get a steal dont try and throw a pass across the court wen u got Beast ass lebron james interecepting passes like hes Asante Samuel or sumthin the bulls are doing everything wrong this series but even if we lose this series it jus means that we are gnna get the best possible #2 player in the free agency

  6. chargerdillon - May 23, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    Look into how many rings Kobe won when he was the primary big scorer on his team. ZERO

    Look into how many rings Lebron won with the Cavs being the primary big scorer on his team. ZERO

    Look into how many rings the Derrick Rose will win being the the primary big scorer on his team…

    Guess what happens when you shut down Lebron James, you still have to shut down Bosh and Wade. Guess what happens when you shut down Derrick Rose, you dont have to worry about much else

    Crying is for losers and Bulls fans, that’s you

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