It’s not the prettiest thing. But it might be the most important.
As former championship coach Pat Riley once said, “No rebounds, no rings.’’ By the way, whatever happened to that Riley guy?
Anyway, Miami committed to going small. The Bulls committed going to the boards like always. The Heat hoped to beat the Bulls with speed and quickness in this Eastern Conference Final. But the Bulls have some speed and quickness themselves. What’s more, the Heat’s small lineup gave the Bulls’ bigs the chance to dominate the boards.
And the Bulls pounded them, getting a ton of second-chance -- and sometimes third-chance -- opportunities, as big a reason as any for their 103-83 rout of the Heat in Game 1.
After the Bulls’ decisive 10-0 run in the middle of the third quarter, they had a 31-23 rebounding advantage, a stunning 15-6 lead on the offensive boards. The Bulls out-rebounded them 45-33, 19-6 on the offensive boards. Jeez, Joakim Noah out-rebounded the Heat himself by two on the offensive glass. All that effort resulted in a difference of 23 second-chance points for the Bulls.
One reason the Bulls had so many chances at rebounds was the smothering team defense on Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, who combined to miss 20 of 32 shots. Wade missed 10 of 17 shots, looking dogged trying to stay with Derrick Rose on the offensive end. It got so bad that Wade stepped out of bounds with nobody around him as he tried to gather a loose ball. James, meanwhile, missed 10 of 15, looking like he left his talents in South Beach.
So, the Big 3 was reduced to the Big 1. Chris Bosh, the last guy in that conversation, went off for 30 on 12-for-18 shooting. But hey, the Bulls will take that deal the rest of the series. I mean, it would be like playing the Raptors.
Even better, when the Heat went looking for help, the Bulls’ bench killed them. Just killed them. Everybody knew the Bulls had a massive depth advantage, but this massive? Led by Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer, the Bulls’ subs ripped off 28 points, 8 assists and 14 rebounds, while Miami’s placeholders managed just 15 points, 0 assists, and 4 turnovers.
Everywhere you looked, the Bulls came up big, even Carlos Boozer with 14 points and 9 rebounds. And the rebounds were the key, from Boozer and everybody else. The Bulls’ season-long devotion to the boards forced the Heat to adjust its lineup before the series started. Now they will force the Heat to adjust again. But good luck if your playoff depends on Udonis Haslem and Jamal Magloire.Copyright © 2015, RedEye