CLEVELAND, OH — The Chicago Bulls hope to send their series with the Cavaliers to a 6th game in Chicago. First, they will need to walk back into a lion’s den (known as the Quicken Loans Arena) – which has seen the most dominant home-court team in the NBA over the past 2 seasons. LeBron James took a big step by winning Game 4 to go up 3-1 in the series.
The key for the Bulls is to be aggressive. They need to assert an up-tempo game by pushing the ball in transition. They have to make outlet passes – even on made Cleveland field goals. Derrick Rose is a constant for the Bulls on offense, but on defense he and Hinrich must watch Cleveland shooters and rotate in order to close-out on Anthony Parker, Mo Williams, Delonte West, and Jamario Moon. Deng must put in a solid effort against LeBron James on defense and prevent him from getting to the middle of the floor – limiting his driving ability and preventing him from having full-vision as a playmaker. The Bulls’ big men (especially Joakim Noah) have put up a solid effort to contain Shaquille O’Neal and the other Cav’ big men. Unfortunately for the Bulls, three-point shooting has really hurt them – they have not been able to knock down the deep ball. Nor have they been able to limit the Cavs from hitting from long-distance. The area of turnovers has been a positive for Chicago in this series. But in Game 4, they were too careless with the ball, and that is where Cleveland really capitalized after the first quarter.
The key in this series for the Chicago Bulls remains Luol Deng. If he can get into the flow of the offense early and do some damage, the Bulls will be in good shape to compete with Cleveland if they can limit turnovers. But Luol Deng’s defense on LeBron is the biggest impact he can have in this game. Obviously there is nothing the Bulls can do if LeBron is hitting casual jumpers from half-court – as he tends to do. But if Chicago can throw defenders at James who will make him settle for perimeter jump-shots, at least the Bulls will have completed their mission at the defensive end. They cannot give up 99 points over 3 quarters of play anymore if they expect to have a chance to win.
Game 5 will be played on Tuesday at 7:00 PM on TNT.