The Miami Heat took a 2-1 series advantage against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night for plenty of reasons, among them their defensive adjustment on Bulls center Joakim Noah in the fourth quarter. Sebastian Pruiti, an occasional contributor to SB Nation, breaks down the adjustment with still images and video at NBA Playbook.
It may seem odd that Miami’s altering its coverage of Noah, averaging 6.3 points per game on 29.6 percent shooting, may be the biggest factor in swinging the series in its favor. However, the Heat weren’t worried about Noah as a scorer, but as a passer. Facilitating from the high post is among Noah’s specialties, and he picked apart Miami’s defense for six assists prior to the fourth quarter because, as Pruiti points out, the Heat’s defense rotated over to him a he popped to the top of the key on the pick-and-roll, leaving another Bull open. In the fourth, the Heat didn’t rotate to Noah, affording him plenty of open space and challenging him to instead create off the dribble for himself.
As one might expect, the lanky 6-foot-11 center struggled to get to the rim from 18 feet out, and didn’t get any quality shot attempts.
The Bulls thus wasted a fine performance from Carlos Boozer, and unless coach Tom Thibodeau can find a way to leverage the Heat’s leaving Noah open against themselves, it would appear they’ve lost one of the few ways they’ve managed to succeed offensively in this series. Chicago’s shot just 39.8 percent from the floor, and 46 percent from within the restricted area, against Miami. They need to find something else offensively, or their season may end in disappointment.