The chief storyline in these Eastern Conference finals has been the Bulls' inability to score points, highlighted by Miami's rock-solid defense against Derrick Rose. The MVP struggled at times in these playoffs even before running into the Heat, but Rose's relative scoring drought has reached new heights against Miami's seemingly impenetrable half-court defense.
As our own Zachary Lee pointed out this morning, Rose's usually superb crunch time scoring has been thwarted during the fourth quarter in each of the Bulls' last two losses. The flawed-but-true formula Chicago rode to 62 regular season wins counted on the league's best defense to keep things close until Derrick could do his thing in the fourth and save the day. Lately, the latter has been absent. With Miami packing the paint and switching both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade onto Rose, the Bulls' point guard has scored just two points in the fourth in each Game 2 and Game 3. Without their star set to the bail them out, Chicago has seen close deficits turn into huge ones, and winnable games turn into losses.
Tonight, with -- for all intents and purposes -- the season on the line in Game 4 in Miami, Rose is talking like a man who knows what he must do: get to the rim and score points.
Via the Chicago Tribune:
"I definitely believe in them," Rose said of his teammates. "But I want to see what I can do if I take the double-team on. I saw what the double-team did the last two games. My passing the ball the majority of the time really isn't working. Or we're not running the right play to get people open. We went over the plays and play calls (Monday). (Tuesday), I have to be way more aggressive."
"Starting (Tuesday), from beginning to end, I have to be way more aggressive. I have to find a way. I don't know how I'm going to do it. But I have to search out the opportunity and go for it."
It's a surprisingly earnest take from a player we expect to speak only in cliches. It's also the right attitude. Rose is struggling because he can't get to the rim -- even during the Bulls' blowout Game 1 win, Miami did well to limit his shot attempts in close. The question becomes: how will this happen? With Rose as the sole focus of the Miami defense in late game situations, getting to the hoop is easier said than done.
From here, it appears the Bulls' best chance tonight would be to hit a bunch of three-pointers. It's not exactly Chicago's strength, and far from an ideal game plan, but the Bulls have proven in the past that they can hit long-range shots. Rose has had numerous games this year with four or more three pointers; this would also be a great time to finally get Kyle Korver on track. Nothing loosens up interior defense like outside shooting. Knocking down a few triples would go a long way to helping ease Miami's paint-focused defense against the Bulls.