Ok, ok fine. I give in – a little. The Heat have done a fantastic job in their series against the Bulls since game one. More specifically, they have done a great job on the MVP. There – I said it! Are you happy now, Scott??
The admiration is still there, but the Heat have finally showed they can contain the league’s MVP. They have slowed him throughout the series, helping them take a 2-1 series lead entering Tuesday’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. After having its share of problems slowing elite point guards during the regular season, Miami appears to have corrected the problem at the ideal time.
“It’s a team effort,” Heat guard Mike Bibby said. “He’s one of the fastest guys in the league with the ball. When a team uses good team defense, he’s not as fast. We have everybody moving around, making him see a wall and more than one person. That’s tough for anybody. It kind of discourages things a little bit.”
After scoring 28.2 points a game in the first two rounds, his numbers have declined against the Heat. Rose is averaging 23 points and 6.3 assists, but shooting just 39 percent from the field. The dip in shooting percentage is largely because the Heat are limiting penetration and forcing Rose to take more jumpshots.
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“It’s about just keeping a body on him and keeping him out of the paint,” Heat guard Mario Chalmers said. “That’s what we’re doing. Then when he shoots, we just contest everything he does.”
Chalmers and Bibby are among a host of Heat players who have guarded Rose. Guard Dwyane Wade and forward LeBron Jameshave also shared in the responsibility. The multiple looks have caused Rose to struggle much of the series, especially the past two games. He shot 15 of 42 in Games 2 and 3.
“I think it’s going to require a lot of different guys,” Spoelstra said. “That’s what MVPs do. It will require four or five different players to guard him during the course of the game and multiple help defenders at all times aware of where he is on the court.”
That leaves Spoelstra with the decision of choosing when to put a particular player on Rose and at what stage of the game. Wade, Chalmers and James have been the choice in the later stages, while Bibby is usually the primary defender in the first and third quarters.
Spoelstra said there is no formula, preferring to make changes within the flow of the game.
“Sometimes, it’s fatigue,” Spoelstra said. “[Rose] has an endless motor, he can burn through a lot of different defenders, guys have to expend a lot of energy. Sometimes, it’s a matter of just giving him a different look if he’s in a great rhythm. He’s a great player. He deserves all of our due respect.”
Bosh key against Rose
While most are still caught up in forward Chris Bosh‘s 34-point performance in Game 3, his defense has been overlooked in the series. Spoelstra pointed out he’s been key in stopping Rose on the pick-and-roll, a staple in the Bulls’ offense.
“Our pick-and-roll defense in general has been one of our prominent keys all season long,” Spoelstra said. “[Bosh] anchors so much of what we do on both ends of the court. It took a player of his intelligence to be able to pick up our system so quickly.”