The Bulls defended the paint and forced the Heat to beat them from the outside.
And it worked.
For the Heat, I mean. It backfired big time for the Bulls.
According to Hoopdata, Chicago held Miami to 10-for-23 shooting at the rim. That’s a conversion rate of only 43.5 percent for a team with two of the best finishers in the game. Dwyane Wade, in particular, was a dismal 3-for-8.
However, the Heat went 16-for-32 from 16-23 feet. That’s the worst shot in basketball, but the Miami players knocked it down again and again. LeBron James was only 6-for-15 from that zone, but Chris Bosh went 5-for-8, Wade was 2-for-4, Mike Miller shot 2-for-2 and even Mike Bibby’s corpse went 1-for-2.
NBA teams want to force their opponents to shoot contested jumpers from 16-23 feet. Except for blocked shots or forced turnovers, that’s the best possible result you can ask for from a defense.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work for the Bulls last night.
The Bulls were much more effective at the rim than in the previous games in this series — they went 17-for-26 (65.4 percent) — but their aggressiveness didn’t earn them any love from the officials. Chicago’s free throw rate (25.3) was half of what Miami finished with (50.7).
That free throw rate is amazing. For comparison, Denver led the league this season at 36.7 percent.
The other killing stat was Chicago’s 6-for-24 brick-a-palooza from beyond the arc. Kyle Korver, the team’s three-point specialist, was 0-for-3. Derrick Rose was a vomit-inducing 1-for-9. Admittedly, two of those nine attempts were desperation shots, but still.
Several of those threes were wide open, by the way.
The Bulls are a few more made threes away from being nearly unstoppable. Just look at what happened when they went 10-for-21 in Game 1. Unfortunately, Korver is their only high percentage three-point threat, and he’s usually either chained to the bench due to defensive inadequacies or bogged down by a simplistic offense that doesn’t generate many open looks for him.
I understand the season isn’t (technically) over yet, but when it is, I sincerely hope the coaching staff spends significant time establishing a better offensive system for this team.
Update! You know what else was killer? The uncalled traveling violation on LeBron’s clutch jumper in OT. Great players don’t need extra steps to hit clutch shots, but it sure helps.