Derrick Rose had no room to operate. The minuscule gaps in defenses that he contorted his way through this season have disappeared the last couple games against the Heat. There is no room.
Finally Carlos Boozer stepped up and gave the Bulls 26 points and 17 boards in Game 3. But that was not enough. The Bulls are down 2-1.
It’s not enough because Boozer gets his points in the paint or the short midrange. Right now the Heat are packing it in, focusing on Rose and daring someone to beat them from the outside.
In Game 1 they made the Heat pay for that strategy going 10-for-21 from three. In the last two games the Bulls have hit just 25 percent of their three-point shots. And as Tom Ziller pointed out at SB Nation, the Bulls only took 12 threes in Game 3. There’s no threat there.
Maybe the most obvious example of what is happening came with 7:55 left in the game and the Bulls down 5. Rose has Mario Chalmers on him and when Joakim Noah comes out to set the high screen, Rose goes away from the screen (and the big defender in Chris Bosh) and blows by Chalmers. But Dwyane Wade slides over and takes the charge. Why can he do that? Because his man is Ronnie Brewer standing in the corner, a guy who shot 22 percent from three for the season. No need to respect him out there, so pack the lane.
The Bulls’ only real threat from three is Luol Deng, he has hit 7-of-18 threes this series. Rose is 4-of-13, Keith Bogans 3-of-10.
The other threat is Kyle Korver (3-of-8 this series) but he is a shadow of the defender that Brewer is. In this series, the Heat are scoring 120.5 points per 100 possessions when Korver is on the court and just 96.7 when he sits. Korver bumps the Bulls offense up more than 6 points per 100 possessions, but it does not begin to cover what they surrender. (stats via NBA Stats Cube)
But Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau may have no choice but to go with more Korver, or find somebody who gets hot from deep, because if the Bulls can’t spread the floor and open up the paint Rose is going to keep finding a wall when he drives. And thee Bulls are going to keep finding themselves behind at the end of games.