Derrick Rose, Bulls show inexperience in series loss to Heat
The Chicago Bulls won 62 games this past regular season — more than any other team in the NBA. They did it with both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah missing significant time due to injuries. They had the NBA’s MVP in third-year point guard Derrick Rose.
But they weren’t ready for this stage.
For all the success the Bulls had in the regular season, it never fully translated to the postseason, proving yet again that regular-season success means little in the playoffs. After all, the San Antonio Spurs won 61 games and were unceremoniously ousted from the Western Conference playoffs in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies.
What it eventually came down to between the Bulls and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals was an ability to generate offense. Both teams had strong defenses, but when the teams needed to score at critical moments, only Miami came up with points. The Heat had LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all scoring points for the Heat when they were needed most. Chicago? If Rose wasn’t able to break his defender down and get to the basket, they did not have many more options.
In a way, it was very reminiscent of the much-lamented offense put in place by Mike Brown when James played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, with no one really able to create their own shot outside of James, leading to a very predictable offense. James did not have much to work with in Cleveland in that offense, and Rose found himself in the same predicament with these Bulls.
Carlos Boozer, who was supposed to be Chicago’s No. 2 scoring option, was largely ineffective throughout the playoffs, averaging just 12.6 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. In the do-or-die Game 5, Boozer had just five points and six rebounds in 26 minutes. In Boozer’s defense, he had been playing with turf toe, but if a player is going to be on the court in the playoffs, he must find a way to be effective.
In fact, Chicago’s desperation for offense outside of Rose was so drastic that at one point, Ronnie Brewer, known as a defensive stopper, was the Bulls third option on offense after Rose and Luol Deng.
This series proved that the team’s complexion will need to be altered going forward if it plans on ever climbing the mountain. Building a team based on playing strong defense and Rose penetrating on offense will not get the job done. Defense may be head coach Tom Thibodeau’s calling card, but he needs a team that can score at the other end as well.
Thibodeau’s offense was simplistic and consisted of a lot of off-ball motion and pick and rolls. When James guarded Rose and Miami trapped Rose coming off of pick-and-roll screens, the offense went stagnant. The Bulls needed Thibodeau to throw a few wrinkles into the offense so Miami couldn’t just focus on taking away Rose, but making offensive adjustments on the fly appeared to be too much to ask of a defensive guru.
For a team to win the championship, it must have a balance of offense and defense. The Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and San Antonio Spurs all were balanced teams when they won their titles. They played strong defense but also had multiple players who could score when it mattered most. The Lakers had Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. The Celtics had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. The Spurs had Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. The Bulls needed someone to play Robin to Rose’s Batman, but no one took the challenge.
As for Rose himself, he is not blameless in Chicago’s demise. His inexperience shone through like the morning sun when Miami turned up the defensive pressure, and the holes in his game were never more noticeable. James was able to play Rose well one on one, but that was due in part to Rose’s insistence on driving the paint. With the entire Miami defense geared towards stopping Rose, driving into the paint meant a difficult shot every time. However, he lacked so much confidence in his jump shot that he refused to use it in the biggest of moments. Rose shot just 9 of 29 (31 percent) in Game 5 as a result.
His inability to break through Miami’s defensive pressure on pick and rolls was also a major contributing factor in the stagnating offense. Rose may have fantastic physical gifts, but his fundamentals are still lacking. When trapped, he often attempted to find teammates with jumping overhead passes, which is an ineffective way to pass against defenders who are taller, longer, and just as athletic as he is. Rose would have been better served using a bounce pass in those situations, but again, his basketball instincts all told him to try to “out-athletic” the Heat, which is a no-no.
Watching Rose’s struggles against the Miami defense really helped sink home the brilliance of veteran point guards like Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, both of whom have seen it all and know how to counter every situation that may present itself.
And of course there was Rose’s missed free throw late in Game 5 that would have tied the game at 81. Instead, he missed, letting the thoughts and doubts creep into his head as he stood at the line preparing to shoot. It was hardly the clutch performance turned in by Dirk Nowitzki against the Thunder from the free-throw line (59 of 61 for the series).
For all the raw natural talent and athletic ability Rose possesses, he proved against Miami that he is still a young player with a long way to go before he reaches the elite status of his more-experienced peers. For all his accolades, Rose proved that he is not quite the Wunderkind that he was close to being anointed by those in the media.
This will be a busy summer for both Rose and the Bulls, with each possessing flaws that must be addressed before the team can take the next step and become a legitimate NBA title threat.
By: Eric Lorenz
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