The Chicago Bulls trail two games to one in their uphill playoff battle against the top-seeded Miami Heat. If the Bulls want to extend the series beyond five games, Monday’s Game 4 at the United Center becomes a must-win.
Beating Miami is always going to take a healthy dose of luck, but the Bulls can maximize their chances by following this formula:
1. Play smart
The action after the whistle has gotten more attention in this series than what’s actually happening while the game clock is running. The Bulls have instigated much of that chippiness—witness Nazr Mohammed’s Game 3 ejection—and the refs will be watching the home team for any opportunity to assess a technical on Monday.
Tom Thibodeau will need to preach “do as I say, not as I do” after getting slapped with a fine for complaining about the officiating, but somebody has to convince the Bulls to keep their cool. Physical play is one thing, but all the pushing and shoving in dead-ball situations only serves to shorten an already thin Chicago bench.
2. Don’t get beaten by the supporting cast
You didn't have to be Nostradamus to predict this one.
LeBron James, NBA Most Valuable Player.
The most gifted player of his generation picked up the MVP award for the fourth time, joining Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russel and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players who have won the award at least four times. That is some elite company James has now surrounded himself with, and he is more than worthy of being compared to the very best to have ever played the game. The most frightening thing for everybody is James is only 28 years old and is just entering the prime of his physical prowess so there is a real possibility he could get even better.
A man destined for greatness from the very outset of his journey.
The Chicago Bulls survived a Game 7 on the road to advance in the Eastern Conference playoffs and face the top-seeded Miami Heat. The injury-ravaged Bulls don’t look likely to pose much of a threat to the prohibitive championship favorites, but that doesn’t mean the series won’t be worth watching.
When Derrick Rose returns to Chicago’s lineup next season (barring a miraculous change of heart in the next week), the Bulls will be the Heat’s toughest competition in the East. With that future in mind, here are some issues to keep an eye on as Miami’s run to a presumed coronation continues:
1. Can Carlos Boozer keep up his high level of play?
For the first prolonged stretch since joining the Bulls, Carlos Boozer looked like his old All-Star self in the series win over Brooklyn. Boozer’s offensive aggressiveness and hard work on the glass gave Reggie Evans and company fits for seven games.
The Golden State Warriors 2013 first round playoff victory against the Denver Nuggets will in all likelihood be remembered as the series that Stephan Curry took over and won for the Warriors. While it is true that Curry’s play was the catalyst to the Warriors victory, they could not have done it without center Andrew Bogut.
Bogut, who was an impact player in the paint for years with the Milwaukee Bucks, earned All-NBA third team honors in 2010. However, because of injuries to his elbow and ankle he has missed 120 games over the past two years, which has made him a forgotten man.
This was noted by Nuggets coach George Karl in his press conference after Game six, where he stated “He had forgotten how good Bogut is.” For Warriors fans, what Karl had forgotten is something they may have never known or even cared about because of All-Star forward David Lee’s play in the paint and the Warriors’ 47 wins this season. All of that was done mostly without Bogut, who appeared in only 30 games.
A short-handed Chicago Bulls squad fell at home to the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday to set up Saturday’s Game 7 at the Barclays Center. With the status of two starters still up in the air, the Bulls face an uphill battle on the road if they hope to advance to the Eastern Conference semis.
For Chicago to pull out the win, Tom Thibodeau will need his team to follow these four steps:
1. Let Nate be Nate
Nate Robinson can be an immensely frustrating player for a coach. He’s so emotion-driven that bad shots and bad fouls are just part of the package when he’s put in a significant role.
However, Robinson’s scoring has saved the Bulls throughout this series, and Chicago can’t hope to get enough offense to win without another big game from the little point guard. Thibodeau will need to show patience with Robinson’s antics in order to reap the benefits of his explosive three-point shooting.
2. Get as much as possible from Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich