NBA Finals 2011: Quick Tips the Chicago Bulls Can Give the Dallas Mavericks
Turnovers, dumb decisions and blowing a big lead are just a few of what the Bulls wish they could take back from the series.
If there’s anything Chicago could pass onto the Dallas Mavericks when playing the Miami Heat, it would come from its list of regrets.
Watch out for the Pump-Fakes
Game 5, the Bulls were up 79-72 with a minute and a half left in the fourth.
Suddenly, Wade gets Rose in the air and knocks down a three, drawing the foul on Rose. Wade makes his free throw.
Four-point play. It cuts the lead to 79-76.
No matter how disciplined the Bulls are defensively and no matter how many times Tom Thibodeau told his team not to give into shot fakes, the Bulls couldn’t resist. Many times, the Bulls stood their ground, but at moments, they lacked patience and the ability to identify when these pump-fakes were coming.
Mavericks should especially expect shot fakes from the “Big Three.”
Don’t Focus Too Much on James and Wade
Miami’s bench doesn’t have any depth—so we’ve been told. Size up the talent between the Heat’s bench and the Bulls, and no doubt, the Bulls side is loaded with guys like Taj Gibson, CJ Watson, Kyle Korver and Omer Asik. But who won that series?
Definitely not the Bulls’ “Bench Mob.”
The rule of thumb when playing the Heat seemed to be "shut down James and/or Wayde and you can shut down the Heat.” Chris Bosh was labeled the third wheel throughout the regular season. The rest of the bench seemed to be a bunch of leftover free agents, willing to take any amount of cash for a ring before they said their goodbyes.
Luol Deng and Ronnie Brewer, two excellent defenders, had James struggling from the outside, making only nine field goals in the first four games. Wade couldn’t find an early rhythm throughout the series, shooting as low as 25 percent. Game over, right?
The Bulls' Carlos Boozer made the mistake of letting Bosh get hot in Game 3. Even when Gibson, who is 200 times a better defender than Boozer, was on Bosh, Bosh kept raining shots that night. Though it seemed too late in the season for Bosh to transform into his old self, Game 3 seemed to be the difference maker for him. He went on to average around 20 later in the series.
With more basketball left, and the ultimate prize at stake, Bosh shouldn’t be ignored in the finals and neither should Miami’s bench.
Even if the Bulls contained James, he still managed to get his teammates involved. Excluding Game 1, James lowest scoring performance was in Game 3, with 22 points, but he had 10 assists.
Mike Miller is a streaky shooter and can rebound well. When Udonis Haslem wasn’t having an explosive offensive game, he was rebounding. These two, and Bosh, were game-changers in the Bulls-Heat series.
Even when Wade and James were off in the first three quarters, it took just one Heat guy to step up and get a fire going. Then Wade and James would come in to clean things up.
Don’t Let Emotions Get in the Way
There were moments when the series became personal, and the Bulls let their emotions get in the way.
Notably, Boozer’s flagrant foul on James in the third quarter of Game 5 shifted the momentum to the Heat. Since that foul, with only two-and-a-half minutes left in the quarter, the Bulls nine-point lead grew smaller.
Boozer, an eight-year veteran, should’ve known better than to face-plant James on that drive. Of course, James would make his free throws.
A chain of unfortunate events followed, from turnovers to missed shots and four more fouls committed by the Bulls, including one technical on Taj Gibson. All of this with less than two minutes left in the quarter.
It wasn’t just Game 5. In Game 3, Keith Bogans almost lost it with Dwyane Wade, which could’ve led to a technical foul. That same game, Gibson’s taunt on Bosh just seemed to add fuel to Bosh, who scored 34 that night.
Yes, LeBron James and the Miami Heat have a knack for getting in the head of their opponents, but that shouldn’t result in unnecessary actions.
The Bulls lost their composure, committing stupid fouls and making stupid decisions. Luckily, the Mavericks are a more experienced group and know better.
Every Free Throw Matters
Just ask Derrick Rose, who missed the biggest free throw of his life.
He has been in numerous situations, during the regular season, when the game rests on his shots at the line. And he’ll never forget when he missed a tying free throw, with 26.7 seconds left, that could have forced a Game 6.
Ultimately, the Heat had the edge at the line. The Bulls did not. For the Bulls, when your biggest struggle is outside shooting, you got to take whatever freebie you can get at the line.
When you lose a game by three points, you’ll wish you made those free throws.
It’s hard to imagine how the Heat came back from an 11-point deficit late in the third quarter of Game 5, after making only one field goal. But they were eight for 10 from the free-throw line.
Out of their 33 free throws, the Heat sank 25. The Bulls were just 15 for 21.
Throughout the series, Miami went to the line 139 times and the Bulls 110. Superstar calls, dumb calls, biased refs, whatever the case may be as to why Miami went to the line more, the Bulls had just as much of a chance to stay in the game.
But making free throws won’t be a problem for Dirk Nowitzki.
It’s Not over Till It’s over
In other words, don’t get too comfortable with any sort of lead, even at the bitter end.
After two great defensive matchups, every game, except Game 1, came down to the wire and were decided by who could make offensive plays.
The Mavericks don’t suffer from the Bulls’ shooting woes, but they don’t have the defensive mindset of the Bulls.
Yet, the Mavs always found ways to win against the Thunder, mostly with big plays resulting from Dirk's great shooting.
Both the Mavs and Heat experienced big comebacks in the playoffs, and when late in the fourth quarter comes around, there’s no doubt both teams will tap into championship-mode.