By John Carroll, Scouts Inc.
The Cleveland-Chicago series is a typical No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchup, in that it is a total mismatch. The Cavaliers have too much talent, are much deeper and have all the ingredients to win a NBA championship. The Bulls, on the other hand, snuck into the eighth and final spot on the last night of the season. This series may go five games if Chicago can steal a game back home. But it would likely because of a lack of focus or disinterest from the Cavs. Cleveland is on a mission to get to the NBA Finals and it knows the advantage of making this a short series and getting to rest before Round 2.
The biggest surprise of Game 1 was Shaquille O’Neal. I don’t think anyone thought that O’Neal would have the impact he did in his first game back, but he played 25 minutes, scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds. But it was not his stats that were the story. O’Neal's mere presence was a difference-maker in this game. He is a total mismatch in the low post, as the Bulls have no one that can guard him. He looked like the Shaq of old, as his post moves were quick and he appears to be in much better shape. The Bulls have no answers for Shaq and are so afraid to come off of him that it destroys their defensive help concepts and opens up easy opportunities for his teammates.
Derrick Rose was extremely good for the Bulls on Saturday. He scored (28 points), he dished (10 assists) and he helped get his team back in the game late. But he needs help. Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller and Flip Murray all need to contribute if the Bulls have any chance of winning.
Game 2 Adjustments
The gameplan for the Cavs in Game 2 is stick to the plan of Game 1.
They need to defend at a high level and execute on offense. They got quality shots because they executed at a high level, got the ball inside and dominated the paint.
They also crashed the glass and got a ton of second shots. If they do this again and keep their focus they will win Game 2.
The Bulls, on the other hand, must take a gamble and think outside the box. They cannot win with their usual style, and the Cavs have too much talent and too many answers. One of the things that the Bulls could do is put as many scorers/shooters on the court at one time. They cannot match up with Cleveland’s size in the post, so they could try to score more and put some more pressure on their opponents.
Chicago needs to go into attack mode and try to get the Cavs into foul trouble, preferably at Antawn Jamison with Loul Deng. But most importantly, the Bulls need to put Shaquille O’Neal in as many pick-and-rolls as possible with anyone that can knock down a shot. Rose and Hinrich have to be able to come off picks and make shots when Shaq is sagging and not helping.
Defensively, the Bulls have to take away easy baskets and make the Cavs work harder to score. They must limit fast breaks, allow no easy layups and make the Cavs make as many contested two point shots as possible. In addition they must entice Lebron James to shoot jump shots. That is his Achilles heel and if they can get him to fall in love with his jumper and not attack the rim it would help their cause.