No one knows a team like its coach, especially come playoff time, but it seems to me that Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau could have managed his lineup a bit differently on Friday night.
While it’s certain that the Bulls starting five are comprised of the best players that Thibs has at his disposal, it’s questionable that four of the five need to play 42 plus minutes. As some Bulls players seemed to run out of gas at times on Friday night during a physical game three, there were three players who never got undressed while sitting on its bench that could at the very least make a small impact or absorb some minutes to give their teammates some rest.
Richard Hamilton, Vladamir Radmonovich and Daequan Cook all sat, notching a DNP-Coach’s Decision on the night. In a series where another warm body that can offer you six fouls (if nothing else) has value, it makes no sense to me that Thibodeau refused to play these three.
Marco Bellinelli ran into foul trouble in the fourth quarter and had to leave the game. Joakim Noah had to follow him to the bench eventually for the same reason, leaving the television analysts asking the question of where the Bulls points were going to come from with Nate Robinson a marked man.
The Bulls somewhat managed the situation offensively, but doing it demanded the most out of the five bodies that remained on the floor. While Daequan Cook is far from a playoff difference maker, his career 36% shooting from downtown could have come in handy at a time like last night. His per 36 minute scoring average is 10.7 points, far from impressive, but serviceable when your lineup has a grand total of eight bodies seeing time on the floor.
When Bellinelli was forced out of the game, the Bulls could have used Cook to fill valuable time with fresh legs instead of asking Marquis Teague to come in and complete a small three guard lineup, with Jimmy Butler playing the small forward spot, that diminished Chicago’s overall size and experienced decision making even further.
Chicago’s lineup issues have been far from ideal. They desperately need Luol Deng back in the lineup and Derrick Rose conquering his fears of reinjuring himself would go over great in the Windy City right now, but you can only play with what you have. The problem right now is that they are actually playing with less than what they have against the best team in the league. It’s a recipe for failure without a doubt.
While Hamilton is aging, out of shape and could probably only give the Bulls five to ten good minutes, his experience having been part of a couple title runs in Detroit would pay dividends against a club like Miami and could add something in the way of a scoring presence off the bench. Radmonovich is experienced as well, and although he doesn’t add a ton of athleticism or defensive ability, his 38% career three point shooting percentage would prove beneficial for Chicago as would his size (6-foot-10) and ability to keep the ball moving as a decent passer (1.4 per game for his career).
By no means are any of these three players the key to the Bulls beating the Heat, but if given the chance, they can make it a whole lot easier on the guys who are crucial to the effort, guys whose legs seemed to be going toward the end of game three.
Is this series diminished to a five game series? Not at all, but all of the Bulls that remain standing have to step up now, not just the ones you expect. Physicality and making the game about defending and rebounding is enough to compete with Miami, but Chicago needs a few more contributors to their cause on the floor to beat them.