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updated: 5/24/2011 10:41 AM

What the Bulls must do in Game 4

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  • When the Bulls' halfcourt defense doesn't rotate quickly enough, the lane opens up for Miami's LeBron James and others to get easy baskets. The Bulls must fix that problem if they hope to win Game 4 and take control of the Eastern Conference finals. (AP Photo/Charlie Arbogast)

      When the Bulls' halfcourt defense doesn't rotate quickly enough, the lane opens up for Miami's LeBron James and others to get easy baskets. The Bulls must fix that problem if they hope to win Game 4 and take control of the Eastern Conference finals. (AP Photo/Charlie Arbogast)

 
 

The championship years were never like this.

Back then, the playoffs were a steady climb up the stairs that would inevitably end with a championship trophy on the top step.

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The current postseason has been a thrill ride featuring some steep drops, from the 10-point comeback against Indiana to losing Game 1 at home to Atlanta.

The Miami series has taken a complete spin. After Game 1, the Bulls were on their way to putting the Power Trio in its place through team basketball. Now the Bulls are getting overwhelmed by the Heat's fabulous talent.

But this could also be the right time for the Bulls to catch Miami feeling comfortable and steal Game 4 on Tuesday. A single win and the Bulls would be back in command of the Eastern Conference finals.

It can be done. They were competitive in Games 2 and 3, but need to avoid a few bad mistakes.

Half court alert:

Probably the easiest problem to fix is the half-court slumber defense. Twice in Game 3, Carlos Boozer stepped too far forward and ended up clearing out the basket area for an easy dunk. Heat center Joel Anthony doesn't even try to score, but the Bulls gave him a free dunk in the first quarter.

They also gave up too many easy looks off simple screen plays. That can't be the way Tom Thibodeau taught them to guard.

Pass to 3-point line:

There were a few times when the Bulls chose to make tough passes into traffic when a different teammate was standing wide open at the 3-point line. Like Thibodeau says, outside shots spread the defense and open the floor for Derrick Rose. So pass to the 3-point line and don't be afraid to launch some long ones.

No 3-point plays:

The Heat stars are bound to shoot some free throws they don't deserve, so stopping tacking on free points. If Kyle Korver is back on the break, one-on-one against LeBron James, either wrap him up at the foul line or get out of the way. Korver isn't the only Bulls player who is guilty of the "soft foul turns into a 3-point play" mistake.

Challenge shots:

It wasn't necessarily Chris Bosh's 34 points that killed the Bulls in Game 3. It was his shooting percentage (13-for-18). They have to find a way to slow down a hot jump shooter. Getting a hand up usually helps.

Besides Bosh, a couple of spot-up shooters were also too efficient. Mike Bibby hit a pair of 3-pointers, once in transition when the Bulls lost him. Udonis Haslem hit 4-of-5 shots in the second half after a slow start.

None of the Heat's supporting cast is going to go crazy. They don't touch the ball enough. But the Bulls can't give up too many open looks.

Play with the lead:

Both Game 2 and 3 turned late in the third quarter when Miami opened 11- and 9-point leads. The Bulls quickly closed the gap both times, but those rallies may have worn them out for the stretch run. The Bulls need to make that third-quarter surge and play with a lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The rest of it should be obvious -- keep the turnovers low, push the tempo at every opportunity and find a way to get Rose more open looks.

The Power Trio is humming and the Bulls need to crush some of that confidence in a hostile -- very hostile, apparently -- environment. It won't be easy, but it can be done.

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