By John Schmeelk
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When teams don’t play their best game, or run into an opponent just as good or better than they are, the delicate difference between winning and losing often comes down to an individual going above and beyond to lift their team to victory. It’s what makes the Heat so dangerous; they have three players with the potential to get hot and carry the team. Last night it was Chris Bosh. In Game 2 it was LeBron James. Dwyane Wade dominated against the Celtics. It’s time for Derrick Rose to do the same for the Bulls.
A deserving MVP in the regular season, Rose has been far from it in the Eastern Conference Finals. I could make the argument he has been the fourth best player in this series after LeBron, Wade and Bosh. A lot of it has to do with how the Heat are guarding him. Miami is double-teaming him off all pick and rolls, stopping his momentum to the basket. When he does get into the paint, there’s either a defender trying to draw a charge or contest his lay-up. Rather than taking it all the way to the hoop, Rose should pull up for a tear drop or short jumper. Excellent help defense has allowed the Heat to keep Mike Bibby, their worst perimeter defender, on Rose. Truly great players find a way to play well and win no matter what the defense does. We’ve seen the same pattern in every game and Derrick Rose has yet to adjust his game accordingly.
Rose needs to remember he is a point guard, and if the Heat are going to pay so much attention to him, he needs to be a distributor as much as he is a scorer. The league MVP was never a traditional point guard in the John Stockton, Jason Kidd or even Chris Paul mode. He is a scorer first and a passer second, but with so many double teams and so much help, he should be setting up teammates for open looks everywhere. It’s not happening. Instead, Rose remains at full speed at the basket forcing tough layups and praying for foul calls.
It’s a travesty that Derrick Rose is only averaging six assists per game in this series. He should easily be in double digits. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a 22 year old, but Rose was the MVP and he has to start playing like one if the Bulls want to have a chance in this series. Chicago finally got something out of their second best scorer, Carlos Boozer, in Game 3, but it still wasn’t enough. As much as Rose needs to score, and he does, he also has to focus on getting his other teammates good shots in rhythm.
Rose also isn’t getting a lot of help from his Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodeau. I’ve seen Chicago run more or less the same offensive sets since Game 1. We saw some changes in Game 3, with Boozer getting some more post and pick and pop looks, but Rose was utilized the same way. Rather than continuing to play pick and roll at the top of the key, allowing the Heat to easily double team, Chicago should allow Rose to go 1-4 isolation, and then pass off the Heat help defense. If nothing else, it will give him better court vision and more room to operate. We know Tom Thibodeau is a great defensive coach, but now he has to prove if he can make the necessary offensive adjustments to win the series.
This series will continue to come down to whether or not the Bulls can score enough. They haven’t scored more than 85 points the last two games, unacceptable numbers. It is up to their MVP and their Coach of the Year to make sure they do.
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The Mavericks continue to show that while they might not have much raw talent or athleticism as the Thunder, they are certainly the better team. They move the ball better, play smarter, get better shots, and are much better defensively. Dallas got wrapped up trying to outscore Oklahoma City in the first couple games of the Western Conference Finals, but in Game 3 they got back to defense and it showed. The fact they were able to win on the road despite Dirk Nowitzki shooting poorly should scare the heck out of Oklahoma City.
It’s obviously a must-win game for the Thunder tonight, and they’ll need Kevin Durant to find his shooting touch, and for Russell Westbrook to keep his if they want to win. The odds they get another overwhelming bench effort like they did in Game 3 is unlikely. I’d still like to see Westbrook be a little bit more unselfish and not settle for jump shots. First and foremost, he needs to make sure Kevin Durant gets going.
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