Let’s get this out of the way. Derrick Rose is going to average over 20 points per game in this series, and the only reason I’m putting that that low is because the trudging slow pace of the series due to the defense will limit how many opportunities he gets. Rose is not only a nearly unstoppable force of nature that seems to rise to the biggest of occasions, he’s also a high usage player that has the ball in his hands, all the time. The question is not how he’s going to score 25 or more, it’s how many shots he’s going to need to get there.
That said, you can’t just accept Rose’s trample, so you have to do something. The Heat have made it clear, they’re going to throw multiple looks at him. It won’t just be Chalmers, or Wade, or LeBron, it’s going to be a little bit of everything. The trick is to try and exhaust him in getting all those points and shots, just making it that much harder on him to wear down his efficiency and take away whatever you can.
The ideal scenario involves Mario Chalmers playing Rose up, with help coming at the elbow from a wing defender, and then a final weak-side rotation low from one of the bigs to challenge Rose at the rim and try force him deeper. That worked in the Heat’s best game against Rose, forcing 15 misses on 24 shots. In that game, Erick Dampier spent a lot of time on the floor challenging Rose. Dampier has seen no time in the playoffs with Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Juwan Howard doing the lion’s share at center. Joel Anthony doesn’t have the raw girth or height to challenge in the same way, and Ilgauskas’ mobility is more limited than Dampier. Yes, I can hear your jokes now. It’s a matter of degrees.
The temptation is to check Rose with Wade or James, but doing so 1. exhausts your primary players on defense when you need them so badly on offense and 2. risks accumulation of fouls and 3. wastes them as help defenders. Both of those guys will see time on Rose, but honestly, Rose is too fast for either of them. Either can step in to attack the dribble or try and draw a charge, or if nothing else, force the dribble-back to reset the offense.
But there’s a bigger issue with bringing too much help. On so many of Rose’s floater misses when the defense does commit either at the wing or down low, it sets up both positioning and trajectory for the ball to land directly in a Bull’s hand on the offensive glass. It’s not just the first shot that hurts you, it’s all the second chance opportunities. That’s how a mediocre offense like the Bulls’ can survive when Derrick Rose isn’t producing.
The big key here is Rose’s jumper. If it starts falling, the Heat can’t go under the screen, which opens the edge to Rose. Rose is so fast, he turns that edge into a straight trajectory to the basket. Which means scores and fouls and points, or dump-offs. The other huge component is the Bulls’ outside shooters. The Heat’s wings will gamble off of Kyle Korver, and even moreso Keith Bogans and dare them to beat them. If they can’t hit, defending Rose becomes easier. Derrick Rose takes the Bulls’ offense on his back nightly. He has to get help to beat the Heat.