After the Heat were stunned by the Bulls in Game 1 on Monday, the team seems to have come to the realization that it can’t afford even one more breakdown defensively, at least in terms of how they gameplan for their opponent for the rest of this series.
Chicago’s defensive intensity presents very real problems for Miami, as evidenced by the fact that the Bulls have won two of their last three meetings with the defending champs, and did so most recently with a wildly depleted roster.
What the Heat cannot allow, however, is for the Bulls to get going even a little bit offensively.
In Game 1, Chicago used a 24-10 run to close the last six and a half minutes of the game and secure the victory. Nate Robinson was particularly impressive in that final period, scoring 11 of his 27 points in the fourth, while dishing out six of his nine assists during that stretch.
All 11 of Robinson’s points in the fourth came during that crucial run that put the Heat away, so you might guess that Miami will be doing everything it can the rest of the series to make sure that the one offensive spark the Bulls have right now doesn’t get lit in time to blow the Heat up.
The solution might very well involve LeBron James guarding Robinson for some of the game’s key stretches.
Robinson found room to operate against the Heat late in the game, but it’s not like he wasn’t on the Heat’s scouting report. Allen emphasized putting pressure on Robinson before the series started, saying the Nets let Robinson “move all over the place.”
“The pick and rolls he came off, he was very free,” Ray Allen said a day before the second-round series began.
But it takes two levels of defenders to deny a player of Robinson’s quickness and strength of a clear path to the basket, so placing all of the blame on Allen and Chalmers would be inaccurate. The Heat’s frontcourt players share equal responsibility for picking up Robinson once he moves into the paint.
After Monday’s defensive debacle, LeBron James said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if he was “stuck” guarding Robinson late in games. “I’ll take the challenge on anyone,” James said.
The Bulls don’t have a ton of playmakers offensively right now, so putting James on Robinson isn’t likely to hurt the Heat somewhere else.
Jams will certainly provide more of a challenge for Robinson to deal with, but Miami’s team defense behind whoever guards Robinson needs to be sharp. Two of Robinson’s late assists in Game 1 found Marco Belinelli for open looks from three-point distance, which can be even more problematic than the havoc Robinson has been able to cause thus far.