How the Bulls Slowed Down King James
*Photo via AP
The Chicago Bulls came out of the gate firing on offense in game one against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They also opened the game playing great defense, forcing tough shots for the Cavs players. The Bulls game plan was to close on LeBron James and force him into tough situations and they did just that. The Bulls played good defense on James in the first quarter, holding James to just four shot attempts in the first quarter, four points and a turnover. The Cavs went with a smaller lineup against the Bulls and it benefitted the Bulls as LeBron had to play as a power forward most of the game, leaving mismatches elsewhere. The Bulls also did an amazing job preventing the Cavs fast-break points, holding them to two fast-break points for the entire game. This allowed the Bulls to get their half court defense set up, which made scoring much tougher on the Cavs. The Bulls defensive scheme on James was simple, when James drives to the rim, close the gap fast, get in front of him and put your arms up. The Bulls did this for the entire game making layups and getting to the basket tough on James. The Bulls were allowing James to kick the ball out instead of driving to the rim for an easy basket and it worked very well in the Bulls favor. The Bulls were picking their poison with this strategy as they let guys like Shumpert, Jones and Miller to shoot many three point attempts. This worked very well as the Cavs were 7/26 from three point territory, a shooting percentage of 26.9. The Bulls also did a great job not allowing James to get to the free throw line as he only had two free throw attempts the entire game. This defensive scheme led to James driving in and looking for someone he trusted with the ball, but once the Cavs started missing open three point shots, James was lost. He would leave his feet as the lane closed and this led to turnovers in the Bulls favor. The Bulls forced James into six turnovers.
The Bulls will most likely see a bigger Cavs lineup for game two, which means they will see more of James at the Small Forward position from the start. The Bulls can continue to have success on James if they prevent him from getting to the free throw line and they close the lane as he is driving in, just as the Bulls did in game one. James is without two guys he trusts on offense and the Bulls know James will be taking more shot attempts in game two if he doesn't trust the guys he is passing too. The Bulls have a golden opportunity to take both games in Cleveland and go up two games to none. The only way the Bulls are going to make this happen is by not allowing James to be the offensive facilitator. If the Bulls can force James into more jump shots, close the lane, prevent him from getting to the free throw line and forcing guys like Shumpert to shoot the ball instead of James, they could walk out of Cleveland with a two game lead in the series.
Game 2: Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday Night at 7:00PM EST on TNT.