Patience, rebounding key to Heat bouncing back after Game 1 loss
CHICAGO -- If you think Miami won't respond to its humbling 103-82 loss in Game 1 against the Bulls, then you haven't been paying attention. Throughout this season Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh have been exposed, and they wouldn't have reached the Eastern Conference finals if they hadn't learned from those embarrassing times.
"You see the mistakes we made in Game 1, the things that we can control," James said. "And you come out with a better mindset and try to get Game 2."
The patience Miami showed earlier this season must be focused sharply for Game 2 here Wednesday. Its many problems need to be fixed now. Otherwise, the Heat will find themselves needing to win four of five against a Bulls team that had won all four of its meetings this season through Game 1.
"We're going to have to play with more desperation," said Bosh, who led Miami with 30 points and nine rebounds Sunday.
After taking a brief 19-11 lead in the first quarter, Miami was outscored 92-63 over the remaining 33 minutes. It was outworked 31-8 in second-chance points overall and outrebounded 19-6 on the offensive board. Its second unit was outscored 28-15 by a Chicago bench that coach Tom Thibodeau credited for turning the energy the Bulls' way in the second quarter.
"We all know the effort plays, the second-chance opportunities -- all those things really deflated our focus and our concentration and effort there in the second half," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "With all that said, we are still in a position to take control with a win. This whole series will be about enduring and how long can you endure through the physical grind. But just as importantly, the mental grind, because it's two very competitive, physical teams."
Is Miami really a physical team? The Bulls have been the most aggressive contenders in the East all season, and Miami has to come up with its own ways of changing the terms. One possibility is to give more minutes to Udonis Haslem, who recently returned after missing all but 13 games during the regular season because of a foot injury. If Haslem is able to match the pace of the game after so much time away, he could help his teammates control the boards after watching the Bulls outrebound them in every game this season.
The Heat also need more rebounding from James and Wade, even though that will keep them out of transition and reduce the number of easy baskets.
"There's not just going to be one guy getting 13, 14 rebounds," Wade said. "We all have to chip in and box guys out."
One way for Miami to control the pace will be to play through James in the post. After improving his presence on the block throughout this season, he rarely attempted to post up Luol Deng in Game 1. If James is setting up with his back to the basket, he'll be more likely to create open shots for teammates at the three-point line or to hit Wade or Bosh cutting to the basket.
Thibodeau's defense in Chicago has been as effective as his defensive game plans used to be for Boston. Miami's scoring has declined in every game against the Bulls this season.
"It's hard to attack on the front side of the defense because they load on the strong side," James said. "So you have to be able to get the ball from one side to another and attack their defense. They have a lot of athleticism, so you have to be patient."
Playing through James in the post will enable Miami to exercise that patience and move the ball crosscourt, thanks to his size and strength as a passer.
"We expect them to play better," Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer said. "But we feel like we can play better, too."
It's hard to imagine how Chicago could improve on its second half in which it converted 7-of-14 three-pointers, outrebounded Miami 9-0 offensively and committed one turnover while the Heat committed eight. But it's entirely feasible for the Bulls to maintain that standard as long as they're controlling Game 2 defensively.
"The trust is there," said Deng, who outscored James 21-15 on Sunday. "We could go up and pressure the ball, knowing our bigs are going to be there."
After two frustrating rounds, the Bulls were able to run their offense through MVP Derrick Rose instead of asking him to carry a heavy scoring load. Miami's hope is to control the pace and cut off Rose's passing lanes for the first time in five games against him this season.
"We did a good job of winning Game 1 -- great result for us," Deng said. "But we have to let that go, especially playing a team like this. They have guys who can take over games and could go off at any time. We have to realize that if they win the next game, it changes everything."