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

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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.

PBT Extra: Who do you want to see most in first All-Star Game?

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Tonight the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced. Then the coaches have a week to vote and the rest of the roster will be put together by them.

This year should see a few first-time All-Stars, guys bursting on the scene and grabbing fans attention — so we asked people on Twitter who they most wanted to see in his first All-Star Game and I break it down in this PBT Extra.

The winner? Giannis Antetokounmpo with 45 percent of the vote. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s second in the fan voting for the frontcourt in the East (behind only LeBron James). Good news for those fans, the Greek Freak is almost guaranteed to be a starter, he’s getting plenty of media votes and likely a lot from the players as well.

Second place in the poll? Joel Embiid of the Sixers. I’d love to see him, but will players and media members vote in a guy on a minutes restriction? Will the coaches pick him for that same reason? He is on the bubble.

Russell Westbrook: ‘Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—’ (video)

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Did Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant talk during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night? Westbrook said no, though video and first-hand accounts indicate otherwise.

Even more clearly: Westbrook – who walked near teammates Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow and Jerami Grant – didn’t want someone talking to someone as they left the floor after the game. ESPN caught Westbrook saying, “Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—.”

You will never convince anyone Westbrook is referring to anyone but Durant.

Russell Westbrook commits epic travel (video)

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Between getting laid out by Zaza Pachulia and apparently talking with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook committed a travel for the ages.

The Thunder guard took an inbound pass against the Warriors and just started walking up court without dribbling. The violation was so blatant, NBA officials even called the travel.

And it’s not as if they’re inclined to blow a whistle in that situation. Before Westbrook, Kemba Walker set a high bar last season, but he got away with this walk:

Are Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on speaking terms after apparent conversation? Westbrook: ‘Nah’ (video)

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Russell Westbrook deleted Kevin Durant‘s goodbye text and, months later, told the whole world they still hadn’t talked.

That apparently changed during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder yesterday – though not if you ask Westbrook.

Westbrook dunked in the third quarter, and according to ESPN commentator Mark Jackson, Westbrook told Durant, “Don’t jump.” Anthony Slater of The Mercury News also wrote of the same quote.

ESPN’s telecast caught Durant clearly speaking to Westbrook shortly after. It appears Westbrook is talking back, but his back is to the camera.

After the game, Westbrook denied the exchange:

 

  • Reporter: “Are you and KD on speaking terms?”
  • Westbrook: “Nah.”
  • Reporter: “You guys had a little exchange in the third quarter.”
  • Westbrook: “What exchange?”
  • Reporter: “You and KD said something to each other.”
  • Westbrook: “Oh. You gotta maybe sit closer to the game. You maybe didn’t see clearly.”

This is so Westbrook – stubborn to the point of denying reality.

That approach worked for him when everyone rightly told him he was a significantly lesser player than Durant. Westbrook ignored that fact until it became false.

I suspect he wants to forget this exchange so he can maintain a cold animosity toward someone he prefers to resent.