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.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

Minnesota Timberwolves Zach LaVine slam dunks the ball during the NBA all-star skills competition in Toronto on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press
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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: