COMMENTARY|The Chicago Bulls posted a perfect 8-0 record during the preseason. But despite the team’s success, head coach Tom Thibodeau stated that the moment of truth would be upon them soon. That moment of truth took place on Oct. 29-when the Bulls kicked off the 2013-14 regular season against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
If you are a fan of either team, the scene could not have been more perfect. For Miami, the night represented the last reminder of its championship run from last season. For Chicago, it was the return of its superstar, Derrick Rose, who was playing in his first meaningful NBA game since April of 2012.
Unfortunately, for the Bulls, things did not go as planned. After jumping out to an early 15-10 lead, Miami outscored Chicago 44-18 to secure a 54-33 lead at intermission. Although the Bulls continued to fight, trimming the deficit to eight points late in the fourth quarter, it was not enough to prevent the Heat from rolling a 107-95 victory.
So why did Miami have little difficulty posting its fifth consecutive victory over Chicago-dating back to the Eastern Conference Semifinals? The answer to that question is one word: defense. Miami held Chicago to just 42 percent shooting from the field, including a frigid 12-for-40 in the first half, while forcing 18 turnovers.
Even more to the point, Miami’s defense on Rose was solid to say the least. While the Bulls star did connect on a couple of impressive layups early in the first quarter, he struggled against the trapping defense. As a result, Rose scored just 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting, and committed five turnovers. This was not the kind of production Chicago needed from its marquee player against a championship-caliber team like the Heat.
What is even more concerning is the Heat successfully employed the same trapping, aggressive defense in this game as they did during the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls failed to solve this tactic two years ago, and they struggled with it again in this contest.
Per Michael Wilbon of ESPN Chicago, Bulls’ center Joakim Noah offered the following statement about the team’s lack of execution following the game:
“When you trap that pick-and-roll, it’s on [the rest of] us to get to our spots, make the right passes and then make the shots. For a Game 1, Miami’s execution was impressive. And our offense is not where we need to be. We’ve got to get to our fourth and fifth options against their defense. Against bad teams, we can score on our first two options. But against championship teams we’ve got to get to our third and fourth options, at least.”
What does this loss mean for the Bulls? Well, it is just one outing in an 82-game season, and one bad night is not indicative of what will happen going forward. However, being that Miami is the team that Chicago will have to beat in order to fulfill its championship aspirations, the team must find an effective way to make them pay when they opt to trap Rose in pick-and-roll situations.
If the Bulls can find a way to do that, they will be in good shape should these teams meet in the postseason. If not, Miami’s success against Chicago in the playoffs will continue.
James Tillman III is a sports contributor on multiple sites including Sports Kings/Pass the Pill, Football Nation and Sport Rantz Magazine. James is also a former Featured Sports Contributor for Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter at JTILLMAN9693.