In a game filled with clutch plays, big shots, defensive breakdowns and enough drama for an entire series, the Bulls showed a heart and toughness that sent a clear signal to the Celtics in Game 4 that they would not roll over and die. With the series tied 2-2, the Bulls are right back where they want to be -- scaring the daylights out of the defending champions.
" This game came down to execution in the final possessions of regulation and overtime, and although Ray Allen hit a clutch 3 to tie it on a perfect play out of bounds, Boston did not get what they wanted on a
number of key possessions in regulation and in both overtimes.
" With chances to win or extend the lead, both Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo settled for jump shots, which took away any opportunities to be fouled. Coach Doc Rivers' agonized facial expression said it all, as Boston had
missed their chances to put this game away.
" The Celtics' primary adjustments will come on end-of-shot-clock and end-of-game situations -- how to put Pierce and Rondo in position to get into the lane and get to the line, and get Ray Allen 3-point chances on the catch.
" Look for high ball-screen action for Rondo rather than just flattening the floor or clearing out. He can blow by the screener's defender on a hedge or a switch, and look for the Celtics to pick the mismatch they want to attack by having that man set the screen.
" Pierce will continue to set up in the pinch post, but must attack with more aggression and quickness. The longer he takes, the more the Bulls can crowd the paint.
Defensively, the Celtics will prepare for those late-game situations as well. They will look to foul anyone not named Ben Gordon on game-tying possessions. But this must be simulated in workouts and practice sessions. Players have to actually do this, not just talk about it. It has to be preplanned, not just a call in the huddle.
Also look for the Celtics to rotate Mikki Moore and Brian Scalabrine into more of their front-line rotation in an effort to keep Kendrick
Perkins out of foul trouble. They must have Perkins on the floor in their biggest defensive possessions.
" Chicago is now back to the point where it can just let loose, run
free, and attack at will. The pressure is now off, because the Bulls know they
have at least one more game at home. Look for them to push the pace and
play with emotion.
Offensively, they will let Derrick Rose create and let Gordon and John Salmons attack from the wings, but they must run more screening action
to keep the Boston defense in motion. They cannot allow their offense
to stall and become stagnant.
In Game 5, look for high ball-screen action throughout, forcing Perkins
and Davis to defend high out on the floor.
Defensively, the Bulls found an extended role for Kirk Hinrich in Game
4, and look for him to continue guarding Pierce and Allen in key
situations. His role will be increased even more if Gordon's hamstring problem doesn't improve. Hinrich may even see time on Rondo, as the Bulls will try to
limit his triple-double assaults on the rim.
" The Bulls will try to keep it basic, attack the glass, and try to get
the game into the 110s. They like their chances in a higher-scoring
" Glen Davis will continue to get midrange shot opportunities. Scalabrine will also get his perimeter looks.
The Bulls must limit their turnovers to prevent the easy fast-break
baskets. This will help keep the Boston crowd under control.
Boston has to let Game 4 go. The Celtics can't think about the one that got
away that would have allowed them to end the series right here. They
must execute in the half court and play championship defense. The Bulls
will come in flying high, and if they can get an early lead, they can
take the crowd out and steal a win.
Prediction: Celtics win Game 5
Mike Moreau is the director of basketball for the Pro Training Center and The Basketball Academy at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. He also serves as an NBA analyst for Hoopsworld.
Synergy Sports Technology systems were used in the preparation of this report.