NBA Playoffs: Bulls bring energy but shooting betrays them

10 Comments

Derrick Rose was true to his word, he attacked the rim with a recklessness and aggressiveness not seen in this series.

The Bulls played defense with energy and desperation not seen this series.

And it was not enough — in the end they simply did not shoot the ball well enough from the outside to space the floor and create room for penetration, which led to more jumpshots they missed.

As a team, the Bulls shot 27.1 percent from beyond 10 feet in Game 4, and 25 percent from three. (stats via Hoopdata)

On the other side of the floor, Mike Miller came off the bench — and for Heat fans back from the dead — to knock down outside shots that helped key the Heat’s 101-93 victory.

The Bulls in the first quarter got the game to go their way. They were physical on defense and slowed the Heat attack, they created turnovers and turned those into some fast break points. But through it all their outside shots were still not falling, and as the game wears on the guys got tired the Bulls more and more seemed to settle for the jump shot. Yet those were not falling as the Bulls were 6-of-24 from three.

Neither the Heat nor the Bulls run a lot of post up plays, both get their points in the paint primarily through penetration. This has been a fantastic defensive series — both teams have walled off the paint and been very physical with whomever drives the ball. Even with some of the best penetrators in the game — Rose, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade — attacking the rim has been a chore.

The Heat have put up a wall of players in front of Rose when he wants to drive. With the Bulls shooting 6-for-24 from three, the Heat do not have to come out of the paint to respect that shot. They can create those walls and pack the paint. In the first half Rose attacked that anyway and had the monster dunk over Joel Anthony. He got some easy buckets (for him anyway) in transition. But in the second half, as he got tired, he started to settle more for jump shots. His went 1-of-9 from three. Kyle Korver is the designated shooter but he was 0-for-3 from three. Nobody on the Bulls was able to knock down shots.

Mike Miller changed that dynamic for the Heat. He went 2-of-5 from three and 5-of-8 overall, finishing with a dozen points. The Bulls had to respect his outside shot and defend it. There was a reason he was a game high +36 on the night.

That drew the Bulls defense out and gave the Heat more room inside for penetration and offensive rebounds. Miami had just two fewer offensive rebounds than Chicago (10-8) and that is a battle the Bulls need to win big.

“Mike gave us a real boost,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game in an interview broadcast on NBA TV. “Real aggressive looking for his opportunities, and they do such a tremendous job of protecting the paint and he was able to break free a couple of times. We love it. We love him even when he’s taking shots he doesn’t think he should.”

At the end of the game, with no other shooters a threat, the Bulls really had no choice but to flatten out and have Rose attack in isolation against LeBron. If Rose had not been so exhausted from the long minutes in a physical game he might have tried to get to the rim rather than settle for a jumper over a taller LeBron, but we will never know. What we do know is that shot missed.

LeBron and the Heat have taken their share of jumpers in this series because of the Bulls defense. But they hit 38.5 percent in this game, they knocked their jumpers down. Or at least enough to be up 3-1 in the series and in total command.

And the Bulls are not going to win one more game, let alone three, without knocking down some outside shots. It’s the only way.

Rumor: Indiana coach Nate McMillan is on hot seat

Indiana coach hot seat
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Last season, Indiana’s Nate McMillan finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting, taking a team that lost star Victor Oladipo after just 36 games and still got them into the playoffs. McMillan is going to get COY votes again this year for much the same reason — his teams play good defense and overachieve.

Indiana coach Nate McMillan is also on the hot seat.

It’s surprising, and it’s just a rumor, but ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Zach Lowe had this conversation on a recent episode of The Lowe Post podcast (hat tip PacersTalk.net).

Van Gundy: “I had two people come up to me since I’ve been here [in the NBA restart bubble] and say, ‘Nate McMillan’s in trouble.’”

Lowe: “It’s been the hottest rumor all season… What you’ve heard in Orlando’s been going around all season…

“Let me be clear: It’s just a rumor. I don’t know if it’s true. When you talk to people around the Pacers, they say, ‘It’s not true’ or ‘Where you’d hear that from?’”

Maybe management wants a more modern offense, the Pacers are bottom eight in both three pointers attempted and pace. Overall, Indiana’s offense is middle of the pack (18th in the league), which is not bad considering it was without Oladipo for most of the season (and he was playing his way into shape when he returned and was not at an All-NBA level).

It’s hard to imagine that the Pacers would make a change this offseason, which will be short and give a new coach less time to ramp up a program. Plus, does owner Herb Simon want to pay two coaches? The finances of the league are helping other coaches keep their jobs.

More than all that, McMillan doesn’t deserve to be fired.

Not that “deserved” has had much to do with NBA coaches keeping their jobs in the past.

 

Report: NBA players bypassing ‘snitch’ hotline to call Adam Silver directly

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Leave a comment

No NBA players have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the bubble. And they want to keep it that way. A championship and a lot of money are on the line.

That means preventing players from having close contact with anyone outside the bubble. And, in case someone contracts coronavirus, wearing masks (intact masks) to prevent a wider outbreak.

The NBA set up a hotline – quickly dubbed the “snitch” hotline – for players to report violations.

Chris Haynes of TNT:

Players have been circumventing that process. Sources informed me that multiple players are personally calling commissioner Adam Silver to issue their complaints with things they’re seeing in the bubble.

Adam Silver is accessible to players – particularly the president of the union.

I’m not sure about tattling straight to the top boss when there are other protocols in place. Are hotline calls not resulting in changed behavior?

Either way, it’s important for the NBA to keep players safe – both for their health and the league’s revenue (about half of which goes to players in salary). So, cut Chris Paul anyone calling Silver a break. They’re at least trying to help. And so far, violations inside the bubble have led to reminders, not harsher discipline.

Zion Williamson sitting out Pelicans-Wizards (rest)

Pelicans big Zion Williamson
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Pelicans have been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams in the bubble. New Orleans has gone 1-3 at Disney World and fallen to 13th in the Western Conference.

Still (barely) hanging in the race to make the play-in, the Pelicans must face the Wizards without Zion Williamson.

Pelicans:

The Pelicans are treating Williamson carefully – and they should. He’s their 20-year-old franchise player with major health concerns.

But New Orleans still has its highest ceiling now with Williamson on the floor. He’s an offensive force. His interior scoring and gravity create efficient looks for himself and teammates.

Williamson has been woeful defensively, and the Pelicans have bigs – Derrick Favors and Jaxson Hayes – to take Williamson’s minutes. New Orleans can go small, too.

The Pelicans should still beat Washington, even without Williamson. Ideally, this will have Williamson ready for a closing stretch against the Spurs, Kings and Magic without sacrificing today’s game.

Yet, this is really just proof New Orleans isn’t as ready to launch as it appears during Williamson’s most exciting moments. His availability remains murky. His team has run hot and cold. I wouldn’t assume a win over the Wizards – though it’s a game the Pelicans need to preserve their fading playoff hopes.

Rumor: Next NBA season could begin in March

Wizards guard Bradley Beal and 76ers center Joel Embiid
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA could reportedly delay the start of next season – currently planned for Dec. 1 – if fan attendance becomes foreseeable.

How long would the league wait?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

one plan includes starting in March if the NBA feels they can get fans in the arena by then, as well as not lose personnel and viewership to the Summer Olympics.

I understand the temptation to delay. The coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for NBA teams to turn a profit.

But this plan would invite all sorts of complications:

  • What if there’s no vaccine, cure or comparable solution by March? Then, the league would have wasted months getting practically no revenue – rather than reduced revenue – without reaching a more favorable point. (However, maybe owners could also reduce costs with a lockout.)
  • Starting the season in March would radically alter the NBA’s calendar. Shifting back to an October – or even December – start date would mean even more upheaval, potentially for several years.
  • The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled for July and August 2021. The Olympics have been a powerful tool for the NBA and its players expanding their global reach.

These are unique and trying circumstances. Coronavirus is a massive and confounding variable. Everything should be on the table.

Do I predict next season will begin in March? No. But apparently the possibility is being considered, which is something.