Keys to winning Game 5 and getting back into the series
I know I’ve stated before that the Bulls won’t win a championship without Rose (and Noah). But it’s still more than okay for us to be optimistic heading into tonight’s game at the UC. If the Bulls continue using the same game plan they’ve used the last three games, though, the season will probably end tonight. Here’s how they can get back into this series against Philly:
- Stop crashing the offensive glass so much. Yes, the Bulls were the best rebounding team in the league heading into the postseason. But in this series, they are only rebounding 27.4% of their misses to Philly’s 24.9%. With Noah out, the Bulls are essentially no better than Philly in the rebounding department. They may as well keep an extra body in the backcourt and focus on preventing Philly from running the fast-break, which has killed us all series long. They’re also shooting 22% from three (good for 15th out of 16) and nearly 50% from inside the arc, a lot of which has comes from easy fast-break layups/dunks and poor pick-and-roll defense. If we can get Philly in a half court game more often than we have, it will drastically increase our chances of winning
- Go small. Starting Omer Asik won’t accomplish anything. He’s basically allergic to scoring unless it involves dunking the ball and swinging his legs up in the air. The Bulls may as well try something different by playing small-ball and starting Taj Gibson at the 5 and figure out a way to get Gibson, Lucas and Korver on the floor together at the same time. The three of them happened to have the best non-Rose and non-Noah 3 player combination +/- on the team during the regular season (+152 in 391 minutes). Throw Deng in there (the four of them together posted a +92 in 192 minutes during the regular season), and this should help space the floor and hopefully allow for some more open looks. It also doesn’t hurt to point out that, with Gibson on the court during the playoffs (per 48 minutes of playing time), the Bulls 3 point % has increased from 32.3% to 40.9%; their free throw attempts have increased from 16.3 to 24.3; their offensive rebounding % has gone up by nearly 8%; and their net rating (offense rating – defense rating) goes from +5.1 to -8.4. Taj needs more minutes. Period.
- Limit the fouls and get back to fundamental defense. If you remember from yesterday’s post, free throws attempted per field goals made is one of the four factors to being a good basketball team. During the regular season, the 76ers were last in the league in free throw rate by making only 13.5 free throws per game. In the four games this series, they happen to have attempted 110 free throws, good for fourth most out of the 16 playoff teams. The Bulls have to stop playing lazy defense, which is supposed to be their bread and butter, and stop bailing out the Philly guards late in the shot clock. I can bet that Thibs has nearly had 4 or 5 heart attacks on the sideline by now because of this and could guess that it will take an extra couple of days for his voice to come back after this series. This is very atypical of Bulls basketball, so we’ve got to stick to our true identity and not give this team so many free points.
So there you have it. If the Bulls can accomplish these three things (and Thibs can play those recommended lineups more minutes), I don’t see why they won’t come out with a victory tonight. This isn’t to say that we can’t win without doing these things, because we very well can, but they are three things that have probably frustrated most of us the last few games. Although we’ve looked no better than atrocious without Rose, finally getting over the hump to win one game can go a long way for this team and give them the confidence boost they’ve needed to somehow pull out this series.