After watching the Chicago Bulls fumble through their file cabinet of point guards, coach Fred Hoiberg finally decided that Dwyane Wade of all players would be Chicago’s safest bet in Rondo’s absence. A decision that, no matter how panicked, could potentially tip the scales in the Bulls’ favor.
Among other points of emphasis, here’s a five-step guide to how Chicago can regain its stranglehold over the Celtics:
1. Small Pick ‘n Rolls
The Celtics most potent offensive weapon is conversely the league’s most glaring defensive liability, and Isaiah Thomas isn’t getting any taller. So it’s essential that Chicago keeps forcing Isaiah into guard-on-guard pick ‘n roll situations, where he’s forced to switch onto the ball handler, whether that be Wade or Butler. Those mismatches will always be Chicago’s “get out of jail free” cards on offense.
2. Controlling the Glass
Unfortunately for Chicago, Robin Lopez got in foul trouble early on in the first quarter. However, to that point, Lopez was earning his money on the offensive glass. As every basketball analyst across the blogosphere has dually noted, rebounding is the one significant advantage the Bulls have against the Celtics.
Create second chance point opportunities, force coach Stevens into playing a larger lineup, and slow down the Celtics tempo to limit the rhythm they’ve discovered over the last three games.
3. Boston’s Spotty 3-Point Shooting
Boston opened the first quarter in game No. 5 struggling from beyond the arch as it shot 0-7. Obviously, at times, both good and bad three-point shooting can be entirely attributed to pure luck. However, Boston was forced into taking those bad three-pointers thanks to the Bulls’ stifling 2-3 and 1-2-2 zone defenses. So closing off those driving lanes will be key to derailing Boston’s hopes.
4. Dwayne Wade’s Experience
Watching Michael-Carter Williams, Jerian Grant and Isaiah Canaan try to play point guard has been disappointing to say the least. Clearly Rondo’s absence has been nothing short of a conundrum for Chicago, because his presence (or lack there of) couldn’t be any less understated.
With Wade though, Chicago may have perfectly alleviated their problems finding the right ball handler. Obviously his experience and poise will be key down the stretch, but Wade is certainly the best playmaker the Bulls have to offer beyond Rondo. Not to mention, running those guard-to-guard pick ‘n rolls to exploit Thomas will be much easier when your second best scorer is a ball handler.
5. Smart Adjustments
Coach Hoiberg has mightily struggled to make adjustments over the course of the last five games. Whether it’s allowing Isaiah Thomas to latch onto Paul Zipser, then not adjusting to run guard-to-guard pick ‘n rolls with Zipser as opposed to Canaan. Or, leaving Robin Lopez out of the entire fourth quarter in game 4 and allowing Boston’s smaller lineup to blow them out of the water.
If Chicago wants to win, Hoiberg has to make all of the adjustments possible to slow Boston down into a half-court game. Just like they did in game No. 1 and 2.