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The Chicago Bulls have had their share of exciting finishes in the post-season. Perhaps that’s not a good thing, as several of thier late game victories were the product of “just in the nick of time” comebacks against teams that the Bull shouldn’ t have been losing to but you can’t argue with the results and they are now just three wins away from reaching the NBA Finals.
One of the biggest reasons the Bulls were able to make those comebacks in the final minutes of games was because they had one of the league’s premier outside shooters to space the floor and knock down open looks when Derrick Rose created them off the dribble. Korver has been extremely clutch throughout the post-season. He burned the Pacers multiple times in the fourth quarter in the first round and he had his moments against the Hawks as well.
According to NBA.com’s StatsCube, Korver has made 50% of his shots in crunchtime during the post-season, which means he’s made half of the shots he’s taken in the last five minutes of five-point games. Korver has shot the three ball even better in the clutch as he’s made an incredible 67% of his attempts from deep when the game is on the line. The Bulls run multiple sets to free Korver open and these plays are most optimal late in games when defenses will tend to focus on Derrick Rose, Chicago’s closer. In a sense, Korver is Derek Fisher to Rose’s Kobe. The opposition is expecting Rose to either get to the cup or create a look for himself from the perimeter so Korver tends to catch defenses off guard when he comes twirling around a baseline screen to meet a kickout from Rose.
Unfortunately for the Bulls Korver didn’t meet his high crunchtime standards last night against the Heat, which is a big reason Miami was able to pull awayin the final minutes of the contest. Korver finished the game missing six of his seven shot attempts and he missed his last two shots that came in the final three minutes of the game (the first of which was a wideopen brick from three that could have pulled the Bulls within two).
Chicago depserately needs other scorers to step up for them to win this series. While James has Wade and vice versa with a little bit of Posh sprinkled in (Getit? Bosh/Posh, sprinkled/spices!) Rose was left to fend for himself last night in crunchtime and Miami’s stifling defense refused to let him carry his team to victory. The blame is not all on Korver – Boozer, Noah and Deng all have to play better than they did in game two for the Bulls to win this series - but Korver is a one-dimensional player and when his shot isn’t falling it’s hard to justify his playing time.
Defensively the Bulls were able to hide Korver on Mike Bibby in the fourth quarter last night but Miami still found ways to take advantage of Korver by running 1/3 pick and rolls with Bibby and James to force a switch. Korver is a big defensive liability but he is also the Bulls’ most effective outside shooter. When Chicago need scoring and spacing late in games Korver is really Tom Thibodeau’s only option but when he isn’t hitting there’s no reason to keep him on the floor over Ronnie Brewer, who can’t match Korver’s shooting abilities but is much, much better defender.
I’m not bashing Korver for having one bad game after playing so well previously in the post-season but moreso than any other Bull that struggled last night, Korver has to score in order bring something positive to the table. His defensive deficiencies are simply too heavy a burden for the Bulls to put up with against a team that has LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Korver’s porous defense is only magnified when he can’t get his shot to fall. I think Korver will bounce back (although his reaction to his last shot attempt at the rim getting swatted was one of a man with no confidence) but if he doesn’t the Bulls will be in a very unenviable position.