Nate stomps out coaching strategy

Nate stomps out coaching strategy

Posted by mikemcgraw on Fri, 04/12/2013 - 14:26

Thursday’s Bulls-Knicks game featured a pretty good chess match between coaches Tom Thibodeau and Mike Woodson.

For starters, New York left all of its big men at home and used a lineup of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Copeland, Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. The opening tip featured the 6-8 Copeland against 6-7 Jimmy Butler.

It gave me flashbacks of the one-time-only, 2002-ish Jalen Rose Charity Game at the UC when the guys made Jamal Crawford jump center against Jay Williams. Crawford, apparently paralyzed by a fear of losing while trying, didn’t jump.

Anyway, with the Knicks super small, Thibodeau countered with a lineup of Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli, Butler, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer. The Bulls never used Nazr Mohammed or Vladimir Radmanovic, though Malcom Thomas made a brief cameo.

For a long time, Woodson won this battle. The Knicks collapsed on Boozer and kept the Bulls from hurting them inside.

On the other end, though, New York exploited the heck out of Boozer defensively. When Booz played off Copeland, the Knicks’ no-name forward knocked down 3 baskets from 3-point range. Or they set a pick, created a switch and left Boozer guarding someone even smaller.

The Knicks seemed dangerous when they were knocking down 3-pointers, but the Bulls managed to shut that off, somehow. Starting in the middle of the third quarter, New York hit 1 of its last 14 attempts from 3-point range.

The Bulls never really got Boozer going (3-for-11, 13 points, 15 assists), but found a better plan – get it to whichever player Jason Kidd was guarding. Why the Knicks used the 40-year-old Kidd (0 points, 2 assists, 5 fouls) for 37 minutes while Prigioni spent a long time on the bench was this game’s greatest mystery.

In the final analysis, Thibodeau made some good moves, but nothing makes a coach look smart like Nate Robinson exploding for 35 points. Robinson took 18 shots, while Anthony needed 34 shots to score 36 points.

It also seems clear that the “more than enough to win with” mantra has its limits. The Bulls won’t win many games with Deng, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose out. Deng’s return against the Knicks made a big difference.

Another observation from Thursday is it appears six weeks off did Richard Hamilton some good. Both Hamilton and Belinelli played 25 minutes against NY. Hamilton contributed 14 points and 8 assists. Belinelli (7 points, 3 assists) wasn’t bad, but also appears to be struggling with the abdominal strain.

The Bulls were given a nice gift from the schedule-makers – four games in five days at the tail end of the regular season. With a quick turnaround in Toronto tonight, maybe Mohammed, Thomas and Daequan Cook can capitalize on the rest they were given against the Knicks.

With four games left, catching Brooklyn for the No. 4 seed seems just about impossible. There is a chance the Bulls could fall behind Atlanta into the No. 6 seed.

The Hawks have three games left – Milwaukee and Toronto at home, then at New York. If Atlanta wins out, the Bulls would have to lose twice to fall to sixth, since they won the season series.

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