Posted May 24 2011 12:27PM
MIAMI -- In the regular season, the Chicago Bulls didn't necessarily need Derrick Rose to score big to win. Behind the league's best defense, Chicago was 20-7 when the MVP scored 21 points or less.
But heading into Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT), the Bulls are 1-3 in the postseason when Rose fails to score 22 points. And the only victory was a blowout in Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks, when Rose was a relatively efficient 8-for-14 with a playoff-high 12 assists.
For the postseason, Rose is shooting 45 percent in wins and 36 percent in losses. Now, after scoring 21 points in Game 2 and 20 in Game 3 against the Miami Heat -- and shooting 15-for-42 in the process -- the Bulls need Rose to break out offensively to even the series.
"He will have opportunities to impact on every single possession, which makes it challenging," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday. "We have to try to keep bodies in front of him and be athletic. Also, it's make or miss. Sometimes a guy has to miss some shots he normally makes."
That's been the case with Rose, who is shooting just 7-for-18 from within five feet in this series. For the most part, the Heat have done an excellent job of cutting off Rose's lanes to the basket and contesting his shots when he gets there.
The key has been their pick-and-roll defense. Rose's defender is doing a consistent job of forcing the MVP toward the screen and the extra bodies there, impressive because Rose usually prefers to go away from the screen.
After two games of slowing down Rose, Miami has Chicago searching for answers. The Bulls can't change who they are after 96 games, but they can make some tweaks to give their star a better chance of scoring against a swarming Heat defense.
Here are six ways to getting Rose going in Game 4 ...
As Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been saying all series, the best way to get Rose to the rim is to get out in transition. Four of Rose's seven field goals within five feet of the basket in the series have been in the first seven seconds of the shot clock.
But unless the opponent falls asleep after a made basket, a rebound or steal is required to start a fast break. And stops have come less frequently for the Bulls as the series has gone on. The Heat scored on 38 possessions in Game 1, 41 in Game 2, and 47 in Game 3, which was essentially decided when they scored nine times in a stretch of 11 possessions early in the fourth quarter.
Rose, of course, isn't going to get much space to operate if his teammates aren't threats to punish an over-helping defense. Rose's teammates are 7-for-26 from 3-point range in the last two games after shooting 7-for-14 from beyond the arc in their Game 1 victory.
They're not finishing at the rim either. Carlos Boozer (10-for-24) and Joakim Noah (5-for-21) are a combined 15-for-45 from within five feet of the basket.
The Bulls do a good job of getting Rose the ball on the move. Rarely does he dribble the ball down the floor and go straight into a pick and roll. Instead, he usually gives the ball up early and gets it back after cutting through the lane, so that the defense isn't fully set.
But at this point, the Heat know exactly what's coming and are more than ready for those actions. If the Bulls can get Rose the ball in different spots using different cuts and screens, they'll keep the Miami defense on its toes.
"If their defense is set, you can't dance and hold the ball," Thibodeau said Monday. "The ball has to move. Players have to move. You have to go side to side."
Often in the last two games, Rose would pass the ball out of a double-team and his teammates would seemingly forget about him, looking to make the play themselves. But if they follow a pass with a pass back, the Miami defense will be a little less ready to cut off Rose's lane to the basket.
The problem with the pick and roll is that it automatically brings a second defender into Rose's area. The Bulls rarely put Rose on an island, but now may be the time. If he has just one defender to beat, he may find the space he needs. Miami will still come with help and he won't get a clear lane all the way to the rim. But he'll be the one making the plays more often than not.
"I have to be more aggressive," Rose said Monday. "I have to take the double team on and play my regular game."
If Rose can attack the help defender on a pick and roll, and can get past him, then the defense is really compromised, with two defenders trailing the ball. If there's anyone in the league who has the speed and burst to get around the Heat bigs, it's Rose.
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