Blog Entry

To stop Rose, Heat may need big change at point

Posted on: May 16, 2011 6:31 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 9:44 pm

CHICAGO – The Heat convened for practice Monday on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus with a big problem on their hands. That problem was named Derrick Rose, who was hunkered down with coach and film junky Tom Thibodeau at the Bulls’ practice facility 45 miles away.

By the time I arrived at the Berto Center in Deerfield, Ill., Rose was seated in the corner of the practice floor next to Thibodeau, deeply entrenched in another video session. They watched, they gestured, they scratched their chins as they dissected everything the Bulls did wrong in Game 1.

To the outside observer, that wasn’t much. Chicago has a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals because Rose played a nearly perfect second half, and because the defensive attention he commanded allowed the Bulls to dominate the offensive boards in a 103-82 victory Sunday night. The team with the problems, and with the adjustments to make in Game 2, is Miami.

“They’ll do different things, put different players on him, adjust coverages,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to be ready to handle that.”

Although Rose had only two shot attempts within five feet of the basket in Game 1, the defensive attention he attracted left the Heat vulnerable on the boards. The Bulls used this advantage to corral 19 offensive rebounds, which they converted into 31 points. That was the difference in the game, delivered mostly by Rose and the way he forced the Heat to play him.

“Any way you can get an offensive rebound, they got them,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, downplaying Rose’s impact on the Bulls’ huge night on the glass. “It wasn’t necessarily about Rose’s penetration.”

But the Heat’s disadvantage is more pronounced when they play with a true point guard on the floor: starter Mike Bibby or backup Mario Chalmers. This has been Spoelstra’s overwhelming preference, as nine of his 10 most-used lineups during the regular season featured a point guard, according to (If you count Eddie House as a point guard, it’s 19 of Miami’s 20 most-used lineups.)

With Rose being the single most important player for the Heat to contain, Spoelstra is in a quandary as he considers making what would be the most significant tactical adjustment of the series: going for longer stretches without Bibby or Chalmers on the floor. This bigger lineup would feature LeBron James initiating the offense and guarding Rose on the defensive end, which would limit the amount of traps and double teams the Heat have to deploy. Dwyane Wade would be at the other wing, with floor-spacer James Jones at small forward and Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh up front.

Spoelstra only used this configuration for 40 minutes this season, counting regular season and playoffs – and 30 of those minutes have come during the postseason, according to adjusted plus-minus guru Wayne Winston. It’s impractical for Spoelstra to play the majority of the game that way, but in proper doses and in the right situations, this bigger lineup with James at the point (or Wade, for that matter) would solve three of the biggest problems that imperiled Miami in Game 1.

First, a bigger, stronger defender would be able to limit Rose’s penetration and bother his jump shot without overloading the floor with help. Staying at home defensively would give Miami a better chance to keep the Bulls from dominating the offensive boards, and a better defensive rebounding performance would ignite the Heat’s transition game – or, at the very least, get them into their offensive sets faster, before Chicago’s disciplined defense has a chance to get set.

Aside from how long Spoelstra is willing to play with Jones instead of James guarding Luol Deng, the key factor in deploying this strategy is James’ willingness to give up scoring opportunities while being more of a facilitator on the offensive end and also embracing the challenge of guarding Rose.

“It doesn’t matter,” James said Monday. “I’ve guarded all five positions throughout this regular season and postseason. Whatever it takes for us to win. If it means guarding Rose from the start and playing more point guard, I’m up to the task.”

One Eastern Conference coach familiar with both teams agreed that playing James at the point with Jones at small forward is “feasible,” but added, “Not full time.” One problem is Jones’ defensive matchup against Deng, who scored 21 points including 4-for-6 shooting beyond the 3-point arc Sunday night with James guarding him. The other issue is whether James has enough quickness to check Rose, and how he would handle defending pick-and-roll situations.

To that extent, Wade could defend Rose some of the time, with James on Keith Bogans or Ronnie Brewer. And whatever problems this presented defensively, the Heat would more than make up for it by putting tremendous perimeter pressure on the Bulls’ defense. With James and Wade penetrating from either wing, they’d have options: kicking out to each other, to Bosh on a pick-and-pop, or to Jones for an open 3-pointer. This way, Miami would steal Chicago’s offensive momentum and force the Bulls to come up with something to counter it.

In 30 minutes of floor time during the playoffs, the lineup of James, Wade, Jones, Bosh and Anthony has performed 20 points better than average, when adjusted for the strength of the opponent, according to Winston. That’s only slightly better than the plus-19 rating for 73 minutes with Bibby instead of Jones. When Chalmers plays with those players instead of Bibby or Jones, the Heat have played 30 points better than average during a 75-minute stretch.

The first step in Spoelstra’s tactical adjustment will be to play Chalmers more than Bibby when he goes with a true point guard on the floor. With Chalmers on the floor during the playoffs, the Heat have played 12 points better than average and only three points better than average with Bibby.

If that doesn’t work, look for Spoelstra to step up his experimenting with a bigger lineup featuring James and Wade as co-facilitators on offense and co-Rose-stoppers on D. As I've said before, the Heat should’ve played without a true point guard more often during the regular season – a look that would’ve made better use of their transition and off-the-dribble skills – so it wouldn’t be such a significant adjustment now.

But like LeBron said: Whatever it takes. And it might just take an unorthodox approach to beat a team like the Bulls, and to stop a disruptive force like Rose.

Since: Feb 15, 2008
Posted on: May 23, 2011 9:28 am

To stop Rose, Heat may need big change at point

The Heat did lose three time to the Bulls in the regular season but this is this playoffs. You can throw all the stats out the window. I also guess it wont be to hard for miami to win two games this series on that account of they're leading two to one. I like all of the skeptics but i understand why you all doubt Miami because the big three didn't come to your team. I would be upset too. Facts are the Facts but Lebron and Wade didn't play all three games vs the bulls either and Im pretty sure they out rebounded chicago the last two games. For the bench UD is all I have to say. Im picking on you because you are the last post.

Since: May 18, 2011
Posted on: May 18, 2011 3:16 pm

To stop Rose, Heat may need big change at point

Putting James on Rose will not change anything, the Heat have done it before during the regular season and the Bulls still went 3-0.  Facts are facts; the Bulls are younger, faster, bigger, and deeper than the Heat.  That combination of facts cannot be adjusted to by Spoelstra or the Heat no matter how much video they watch.  3 players versus 5 is a losiing proposition for the Heat.  They cannot compete in the rebounding department, the Bulls have outrebounded the Heat every single time they have played.  The Bulls run team offense and team defense whereas the Heat's big 2 spend too much time breaking out of plays and trying to score on their own.  The Heat have no true center, and no-one who can own the boards.  And their point guard situation isn't that much better.  Add that to the facts that they have no bench and are hopelessy outmached on the coaching front, and there is no way they advance past the Bulls.  They will be lucky to win 2 games this series.

Since: Mar 2, 2010
Posted on: May 18, 2011 1:15 pm

To stop Rose, Heat may need big change at point

In my post, I wasn't arguing that Rose won't go right by James. He probably will a few times. He'll also get swatted a few times from behind, but that's beside my main point. The guy said, "Lebron isn't a good defender". That's false. He is a good defender. And if anyone on the Heat's roster CAN HOLD Rose to JUST a decent game-it's him. The Heat didn't look so hot in the first half of the game, and by no means did Chicago, either. The game was tied, LeBron and Wade hadn't done hardly anything, and the Bulls looked like a scrappy, sloppy, team that missed a bunch of baskets, but out-rebounded the hell out of Miami, and got the second chance points. A lot of second chance points. Do you know what that implies? If Miami doesn't put up such a pathetic performance on the boards again, they're going to win. If they get just HALF of those 19 offensive rebounds that game would've gone down to the wire. That ridiculous rebounding margin won't happen again. The Bulls will out-rebound them, no doubt, but not that badly. The bottom line is this. LeBron and Wade looked like they thought Chicago was going to be a layover stop between Boston and the Ring. They were embarassed and humiliated in every aspect that game. What do you think two superstars are going to do now? I guarantee you it won't be 33 total points and 8 total free throw attempts between the two. If you think otherwise, you're crazy. They WILL respond.

Since: May 10, 2011
Posted on: May 18, 2011 12:29 pm

To stop Rose, Heat may need big change at point

Interesting article.  There are certainly a lot of numbers subjected to crunching that went into this analysis.  But sometimes you have to go with your gut feelings.  The one cardinal point to this article is to put a bigger, stronger player on Rose to stop his penetration.  I (and I'm probably not alone in this feeling) just feel that he forces you to react and then changes direction so fast he is by that first defender.  LBJ and DWade, in spite of all there super powers, still have human limitations.  Take a look at JJ Barrea's performance last night for some evidense on hard hard is is to react to a small extremely quick player.  A ghetto cruiser can't slalom with a Ferrari.  The kid Teague from Atlanta came as close as anybody to actually covering Rose, and he's been competeing against Rose since youth basketball.  Teague is a Ferrari himself and he was maybe about 50% effective with help defense.  I just don't think one guy can stop Rose.  Maybe that is the big change they need at point.  They could become the BIG THREE plus Teague.  Like the Cubs fans always say... maybe next year.

Since: Feb 8, 2008
Posted on: May 18, 2011 12:25 pm

To stop Rose, Heat may need big change at point

Hey Shizzel22,

Rose is too fast and gifted for Lebron to gaurd.

Rose it fastest player in the league

Since: May 26, 2008
Posted on: May 18, 2011 11:31 am

To stop Rose, Heat may need big change at point

A lot of talk about how James and Wade need to score more.  Yes, they will.  But Bosh won't be scoring anywhere near 30 again...and will be lucky to get 18.  The only way Bosh scored 30 is because he got more touches than usual, due to the Bulls suffocating defense on James and Wade.

So, basically among the Big 3 you get around 65-70 points per game (averaging 67 points in the playoffs combined).  They had 63 in Game 1.  Not bad, only off by 4 points.

The problem with the Big 3 is you know they will get their points...and the distribution of the points really doesn't matter.  If you hold them to the 65 points per game range, the Heat have NO ONE who can score a significant amount of points to help with the "rest" of the points.

If the Bulls continue to press defensively, hold the Big 3 to 65-70 points per game, do you really expect the remaining Heat players to chip in 25?  Doubtful.

To me, it doesn't matter if James scores 30 or Wade scores 30 or Bosh scores 30.  Even if James scores 30 and Wade scores 30 (doubtful), Bosh won't score more than 10 because he won't get the touches to do so.

Those that are clamoring for more scoring from James and Wade, and still think that Bosh will be in the upper 20's or 30's just doesn't add up. 

And remember, the Heat shot 47% in the game...not bad.

Problem is that they took 19 fewer shots than the Bulls due to the offensive board domination.  And do you think that the number one rebounding team in the league (Bulls) will get outrebounded by the Heat?  Doubtful.

Since: May 4, 2011
Posted on: May 17, 2011 7:29 pm

To stop Rose, Heat may need big change at point

fe3o I agree the Bulls bench is more energetic better defensively and more athletic, the bench is not gonna win the Bulls this series Miami's bench will not wow you with numbers but if Spoelstra plays the right rotations and the right players in those spots, they will more than hold their own. The Heat have to get the type of production from Wade and James that they've gotten all season in order to win. That's were the series lies. If Chicago can hold them down like they did in game 1 it's over for the Heat, but I highly doubt that will happen. 

Since: May 28, 2007
Posted on: May 17, 2011 7:07 pm

To stop Rose, Heat may need big change at point

lebron wont stop rose.guarding him all game will take away from his offence.they need to rotate wade,james and chalmers on rose and commit to rebounding by there bigs.also,james is leading heat rebounder in playoffs,how he gonna get boards guarding rose?deng hit several difficult shots in game 1 he wont hit the whole series,if jones guards him, he will get baskets closer to the hoop,this causes en even worse problem for the heat.

Since: May 17, 2011
Posted on: May 17, 2011 6:56 pm

To stop Rose, Heat may need big change at point

To all:

I'm surpised out of all this string of comments that noone has brought up the fact that the Bulls bench is far better than Miami's and in my opinion is one of the biggest factors for the Bulls winning this series (and others, and 62 games). More talented, more eager, more energetic, more relentless. Miami can play the Bulls straight up, but they can't keep their starters on the floor for 48 minutes and that's where the gap is.  

Since: May 4, 2011
Posted on: May 17, 2011 6:45 pm

To stop Rose, Heat may need big change at point

Smurph If I were the Heat I wouldn't put Lebron on him I would go with Wade when Bibby is on the court and Chalmers when Bibby is out. Their rotations and swarming to Rose worked pretty well in game 1, they just didn't finish the plays by rebounding. That can be fixed by simply putting guys that are rebounders on the floor Haslem is a rebounder Miller has always been over looked as a rebounder and being 6'8 doesn't hurt. For whatever reason Lebron and Wade just looked a step slow in game 1, but those two have consistently gotten double figures in rebounds throughout the playoffs. I think those subtle changes will make a huge difference in game 2 along with better performances from Lebron and Wade. The Bulls did look great though, it will take constant focus and effort to beat them.

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