ECF Game 1: Bulls 103, Heat 82

“We gotta make hustle plays.”

“First to the floor.”

“Inspire your teammates. Do it with your effort.”

“And remember: heart. But the important thing is Chicago heart.”

That’s what Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told his players before Game 1 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. And if you were wondering whether this team buys into everything their coach has to say, this game provided complete and utter confirmation.

This Bulls didn’t simply carry out Thibodeau’s orders. They lived them.

Like midway through the third quarter when Joakim Noah wound up defending Dwyane Wade in isolation. D-Wade couldn’t get around Noah, and Jo swatted his shot.

A few minutes later, LeBron James went right at Taj Gibson one-on-one. Gibson not only stayed right with James, he got a piece of LeBron’s shot.

Later, Kyle Korver knocked the basketball away from Wade and was the first one on the floor trying to recover it. Korver ended up deflecting the ball out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Heat, but that play epitomized the kind of effort the Bulls were putting forth.

That effort resulted in some numbers that ranged from “impressive” to “absurd.”

For instance, Chicago scored 22 points off 16 forced turnovers, went 10-for-21 from downtown, and outrebounded Miami 45-33. Furthermore, the Bench Mob outscored their Heat counterparts 28-15.

Those are impressive stats.

Even more impressive was the fact that the Bulls held James and Wade to a combined 11 points in the second half. In fact, both James (15 points, 5-for-15, -14) and Wade (18 points, 7-for-17, -22) looked very mortal. They each finished with only four free throw attempts and a co-game-high 4 turnovers.

The Heat advanced past the Celtics by repeatedly isolating their two superstars. None of the Boston players — individually or as a collective — could stay between those men and the basket. That didn’t work against the Chicago D. Not in Game 1 anyway. With the Bulls keeping James and Wade out of the paint, and shutting down Miami’s fast break, the Heat mustered only 34 points in the second half.

Now for the absurd numbers. Chicago had a 19-6 edge in offensive rebounds that led to an unbelievable 31-8 advantage in second chance points. The Heat could not protect their defensive glass. Noah had 8 offensive rebounds. Carlos Boozer had 4. Gibson had 3. Heck, even C.J. Watson had 2.

The Bulls didn’t shoot all that well — 43.7 percent as a team — but they had an offensive rebounding percentage of 41.3. When a team rebounds four out of every 10 missed shots, that gives them a pretty distince advantage.

You want to see energy and intensity? Check this out:

And this:

Regarding Gibson’s dunks, Noah said: “It was unbelievable. The one on Wade was crazy and the one at the end of the game was crazy, too. I’ve been calling him ‘Light Feet’ for a long time. That’s his nickname around here… he’s got a few nicknames, but ‘Light Feet’ is one of them.”

Countered Wade: “That’s the first time I’ve been dunked on all year. I’ll take my 90-1 dunks [ratio] this year. It was a very athletic play. I knew I didn’t have a chance when I was backpedaling. He’s very athletic. This won’t be the last time I get dunked on.”

According to ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell, Gibson preferred the putback dunk to his poster-maker on Wade: “That just shows that no matter what the score is, no matter how much time is left in the game, you never stop playing. You want to keep playing til the clock runs out and that’s Thibs’ motto: Play 48 minutes. And tonight we wanted to go out there and show that we can play 48 minutes of tough basketball.”

Did they ever. In the second round of these playoffs, versus Miami’s 2.5 superstar system, the Celtics looked like a civilization in decay. Last night, the Bulls looked like a hoard of rampaging barbarians storming the castle gates. They outworked and outhustled the Heat.

They also played smart basketball.

Chicago managed to play defense without fouling, limiting the Heat to only 15 free throw attempts as a team. By comparison, James and Wade came into this game averaging 14 combined FTA during the playoffs. The Bulls weren’t giving up easy points.

Speaking of which, they also took care of the basketball. After a shaky first quarter in which they committed 3 turnovers and gave up 8 fast break points, the Bulls finished with only 9 turnovers and the Heat ended up with only 10 fast break points.

As Friedell noted, Chicago went 30 straight possessions without a miscue and had only 1 turnover in the second half. By valuing possession of the basketball, Chicago prevented Miami from racking up easy transition baskets and forced them into a halfcourt, iso-heavy offense.

That worked out pretty well.

This was the team’s best game in the playoffs. They were 100 percent focused and committed to carrying out the game plan. Everybody was sharp. Derrick Rose had one of the quietest 28 points you’ll ever see. Luol Deng had a great all-around game (21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists) and played excellent defense on LeBron. Noah dominated the glass (14 rebounds) and intimidated from within the paint. Carlos Boozer was solid (14 points, 9 rebounds) and efficient (5-for-10 from the field, 4-for-4 from the line).

And, of course, the bench was a plus all night long. On that subject, check out the Bench Mob’s plus-minus numbers: Gibson (+17), Ronnie Brewer (+13), Korver (+9), Omer Asik (+9), C.J. Watson (+7).

In many ways, this game seemed like a war of attrition, with the Bulls wearing the Heat down with their depth in the second half. And it’s worth reminding everybody that after a regular season in which both James and Wade averaged close to 40 minutes per game, they are averaging 43.4 MPG and 39.6 MPG during the postseason.

With their usuage rates hovering in the 30-ish range, and with almost every single Miami play running through them, maybe the Bulls can keep throwing fresh bodies at them until they tire out.

Or maybe not. It’s worth remembering that, as impressive as the win was, it’s still a one-game sample. Will LeBron go 5-for-15 again? Probably not. Will he and Wade finish with only four FTA each again? Unlikely. What seems more reasonable is that Miami coach Erik Spoelstra will look at the tape, make adjustments, and we’ll see the Heat come out with a new game plan for Game 2.

But this was a pretty nice start.

Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box ScorePlay-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

25 Responses to ECF Game 1: Bulls 103, Heat 82

  1. Inception May 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    are the past two series the true coming out party for Gibson?? we are spoiled to have Gibson and Boozer on the same team…the best of both worlds.

    regarding game 1 – that defense was incredible….reminded me of the classic MJ/Pip defenses…Sir Charles was even more impressed – “this is the best defense he’s ever seen” ….they sure looked it last night.

    only thing i hate about game 1 blowouts – pride becomes an issue with the losing team, and their effort/hustle goes up another notch….it’s all about matching MIA’s effort for game 2….we definitely need game 2…get it!

    chitown4life May 16, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Coach thibs I must congratulate you on sticking with your choice of keeping Bogans as your starter, he has proven to be a quality starter maybe he does not get the input of points one is use to seeing from your two guard.He does however give you solid defense and that makes up for it on the points not scored side.
    The bulls not only won this game but they took control of it solidly in the second half they were fast strong solid on both sides of the court.
    Derrick rose a true leader of this team made the game so much easier for his team picking his spots to insert himself to help the team however it needed him, his play and unselfish passing and shooting was superb.
    I for one noticed that our Bulls have played the heat four times and have beat the heat four times anyone else noticed that . I would not be so cocky to say we are going to sweep the heat but i will say it would not surprise me if we did , this heat team has been so cocky celebrating as if our bulls would not give them a series after beating the celts, well the joke is on them. This not only gonna be a series but its gonna be a very competedive series at the very least and I will stand firm and say as i said in the past if these teams meet the bulls would beat them in six games.

    Our bulls have the edge always have since the start of the season just did not know D rose was gonna be MVP to boot .
    Bench: check Bulls
    Coach: check Bulls
    MVP: check Bulls
    Home court: check Bulls
    Size: check Bulls
    Defense: check Bulls
    Speed: check Bulls
    Overall record : check Bulls
    Fans: check bulls
    Head To head record: check Bulls 4-0
    Best dunks: check Bulls
    Offense: check Bulls
    Series winner: check Bulls in Six close it out in Miami

    bleigh82 May 16, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    It was a fantastic win. Gotta bring that drive every single game. This next one is huge…if the Bulls can put the Heat in an 0-2 hole the pressure will start to mount. Should be interesting to see if the Heat use a bigger line up to try and negate the Bulls dominance on the boards.

    EnJaySee May 16, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    I just love that the Heat 3 all rejected Chicago at the end of last season so they can play together. And after the rejection D Rose said something along the lines of him not wanting them in Chicago cos this is his team.

    Well all players got what they wanted and here they are meeting in the ECF.

    Go BULLS!

    Gorditadogg May 16, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Bulls came out very nervouse last night but after they settled down they really took care of business. The key is holding the Heat to a half court game.

    Next game Spoelstra will have James and Wade going to the basket and forcing the action. Miami only got 15 free throws last night, and six of them came from jump shots when the Super Buddies did shot fakes and then jumped into their defenders.

    Miami will not beat us if they don’t get to the line. I am expecting Wade and LeBron to be a lot more agressive on Wednesday.

    Czernobog May 16, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    Asik and Gibson are a better defensive front-court than most teams in the league can start. And they’ve only played 3 years in the league between them.

    inkybreath May 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Very impressed all around.

    There is no way around this series being brutal, a sweep is only literally possible.

    All the commentators talked about how the Heat celebrated the Boston series too much and how it is going to hurt them. Well, that will only last for one game with this duo. James and Wade will absolutely bring it in Game 2.

    Korver needs to be sharp for this game. You are going to give help on Wade, anyway, so I don’t mind Korver being his primary defender for sections of the game. Korver has been hustling and rebounding and getting his hands dirty on defense.

    They are not going to let us in the paint compared to what we got away with in Game 1 and that defender that has to run at him is one less defensive rebounder.

    You figure they are going to get a couple more whistles their way, somebody, like Joakim, will get in foul trouble and the 3ball will not be dropping for us early. We will be playing A LOT of defense the next game as their effort level is going to go up.


    Kudos to the Bulls for 20 point wins in a close-out game and a series opener – that is a real statement.

    And, waiting until Wednesday for this game – sucks.

    Crazee May 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Miami WILL get more free throws and better shooting from James and Wade. That’s a given. You’d hope that the Bulls will get better shooting as well, they only shot 43% and nobody really exceeded expectations. That’s really the best aspect of that win. It was a comfortable win without any crazy fluke-ish efforts. The Bulls best players played at their normal level(Rose,Deng) or slightly below(Noah, Boozer).

    Instead, the Bulls fed off what they do every night. Hustle, rebounds and tenacious defense. Even if Miami makes more shots, the Bulls should still win Game 2 if they bring the same effort. They have a natural advantage in rebounding and they MUST exploit it every game. My mind knows the Bulls will have a bad game or two in this series. But it’s incredibly encouraging to see this Bulls team do what I always expected them to do against Miami. Steady ball control offense, rebounding, and defense that rotates and finds the ball.

    BTW, Deng dislocated a finger and popped it back in, according to Nick Friedell. Deng is a man out there.

    Ryan May 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    We MUST build on this and take Game 2 as well. I know it’s obvious, but as long as we maintain the home court, we will win this series. I think Miami will dress Ilgauskas to get more size in the paint, but not sure how effective he’ll be. Just keep up that defense. LBJ/Wade are going to get their points, but we can keep them in check. Just hope Deng doesn’t wear down.

    inkybreath May 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    By the way… the guy who did the narration for this Top 10 Plays did a great job with both Taj dunks… must listen:

  11. Inception May 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    @Crazee, i noticed the wrap around Deng’s finger in the post-game interview….luckily, it was his non-shooting hand.

    Ryan May 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    Bulls were so dominant. Loved the energy by our bigs.

    West Aussie Bulls Fan May 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    I think this stat says it all for the Bulls chances…

    No team that LeBron, has played in has ever beaten a team with Scalabrine in it in the playoffs. Imagine that, Scalabrine is the key.

    Tony C. May 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    Yes, Miami will play better, and yes, they will also make adjustments. But they have no way to counter the Bulls vastly superior bench, nor their superior front line(s).

    If the Bulls keep their energy and focus where it should be (which I fully expect), and continue to execute really well, I’ll be surprised to see the series go beyond five games.

    And how sweet it will be…

    ScottA May 16, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    Agree with Crazee – Game 1 was the Bulls doing what they do best really, really effectively, not the Bulls playing over their heads, which is a great sign. 3 point shooting was better then usual, but they were mostly open/openish shots.

    Lebron and Wade weren’t exactly missing easy shots or taking tons of contact either; just looked like they were having problems and/or deferring to Bosh because he was generally open (which is pretty clearly the strategy for this series).

    Anyways, one tough decision the Heat(and mainly Lebron/Wade, or Spolestra if they listen to him) have to make – really commit to the defensive boards and give up some transition opportunities or keep running out and giving up that kind of rebound disparity.

    BULL4EVER May 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    HAAAA lebrick and co. will totally regret turning down the Bulls, especially when these Bulls will destroy these losers from South Beach in 4 or 5 games and it’s a great thing for D’Rose lebrick and co turned down the Bulls, especially when we would have had to take away the ball from our next superstar after Jordan and that would have been totally demeaning/insulting thing to do to D’Rose. GO BULLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    cmb2345 May 16, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    big props to deng for his defense while still being solid on offense did anyone notice how gassed dwade looked after guarding rose for like half a quarter? that really puts into perspective wat deng did tonight maybe thats the reason thibs played deng as much as he has all season long cuz deng’s conditioning is great to be on lebron all game long while not taking plays off on offense… we just have to make ssure and keep up the intensity and we should be ok mia will make adjustments but they cant change their bench or their bigs …..keep it up ….GO BULLS!!!!!

    tonious35 May 16, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    That guy called Taj Gibson sure is an alternative to that “Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” wonder therapy.

    It makes everyone forget Tyrus Thomas’s inefficient, low IQ play, coulda-been LaMarcus Aldrige, !stop-shooting-dammit!… turmoil that was haunting your franchise for 4 years.

  19. Nostradamus May 16, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

    Yesterday was a series deciding factor for Chicago. Had they won by 4 points, it would be Chicago in 7. But they won in the fashion that they did, exploited Miami, playing with ‘underdog’ pride, so this will be over in 5…with the possibility with 6. Game 2 Chicago wins by 8. Game three Miami by 4, game 4 Chicago by 3 and game 5 Chicago by 12. Remember these numbers. Chicago vs Dallas in the finals, Chicago in 6.

    Chuck May 16, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    Lets not get too overexcited here. All the Bulls did was hold home court. Nothing more and nothing less. Game 2 will be the key. If the Bulls can break them (and the Heat are a team that has shown a tendancy to self-destruct) in game 2 it will go a long way to winning the series.
    That being said, the Heat are a deeply flawed team. Against the Bulls the Heat have 3 of the top 4 players in the series (Wade, Rose, LeBron and Bosh in some order) but the Bulls have the next 5 spots in Deng, Boozer, Noah, Taj and Asik. If you doubt this ask yourself if the Heat would trade, straight up, any player they have outside of the top 3 for any of the mentioned Bulls players? Bibby? Yes. Chalmers? Yes. Joel Anthony? Yes.
    I predict a Bulls series win 4-2 with a Bennet Salvatore special thrown in for game 3. Wade and Lebron will shoot 47 freethrows in a game so the NBA can extend the series to get ratings. That sould be game 3 in Miami so the series can appear to be closer than it really is.

    Nicky C May 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    Dang…who knew we had a team full of Jedi Knights?

    Taj Gibson…the Force sure is strong with that one…

    Cool feat/stat/trivia via

    “The Chicago Bulls were even more dominant on TV than they were on the court Sunday night against the Miami Heat in the opener of NBA Eastern Conference finals playoff series.

    “National numbers released Monday showed the Bulls’ ’103-82 rout on TNT to be the most-viewed basketball game in cable history, with more than 11.109 million total viewers and a 6.2 overall household rating. The previous record was the 10.829 million viewers for the 2003 NBA All-Star Game, which was Michael Jordan’s final appearance in the mid-season exhibition.”

    Mattzilla May 17, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    “It makes everyone forget Tyrus Thomas’s inefficient, low IQ play, coulda-been LaMarcus Aldrige, !stop-shooting-dammit!… turmoil that was haunting your franchise for 4 years.”

    No Tonious, we still remember…very very well. It’s a shame too, he’s one of the maybe 20 players in the league that two summers of the right work could lead to an MVP for him, yet he’s guaranteed to be dead last on that list :( I hope it comes together for him.

    Mattzilla May 17, 2011 at 3:41 am #

    Also, gotta agree with Chuck here. I’ll admit to getting REALLY excited last night, but the true excitement begins if the Bulls can go up 3-0 or 3-1, meaning they held home court and won a game in Miami. That’s when I start wondering whether or not the Lakers and Spurs were just old and out of gas and how it affects the West :)

    BoppinBob May 17, 2011 at 5:25 am #

    It was pure pleasure watching the Bulls win the first game against the Heat. I like that Thibs started the year by focusing on the defense. He let the offense develop on its own. This team has shown that while they will rely on a “superstar” to score, they don’t have to.I like the Bulls chances in 5.

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