Bulls’ Game 5 chances hinge on Nate Robinson avoiding Heat’s trap
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com May 14, 2013 9:12PM
Bulls guard Marquis Teague looks for an opening while triple teamed by Heat players Norris Cole, Shane Battier and Chris Andersen in the second half of the Chicago Bulls 88-65 loss to the Miami Heat in game four of the eastern conference semifinal Monday May 13, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: June 16, 2013 6:27AM
Less than a week ago, Joakim Noah was referring to Bulls teammate Nate Robinson as the ‘‘little warrior.’’
That was after the Bulls’ upset of the Heat in Miami, when the 5-9 point guard scored 27 points to open the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Since then, the defending NBA champion Heat has had Robinson coming up very small.
He had 11 points and four turnovers in Game 2, shooting just 3-for-10 from the field. In Game 3, he scored 17 points on 5-for-13 shooting and had three turnovers.
But no one saw his struggles in Game 4 coming.
In what Robinson called “the worst game of my life,’’ he went scoreless Monday, shooting 0-for-12 with four turnovers in one of the worst playoff losses in Bulls history.
So how has Robinson gone from a player ready to be handed the key to the city for his heroics in the first round against the Brooklyn Nets and Game 1 against the Heat to a player who’s 8-for-35 (23 percent) with 11 turnovers the last three games?
Credit Heat coach Erik Spoelstra with the adjustment.
Point guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are putting more pressure on the ball when Robinson has it, and Spoelstra is also using whichever big is guarding the high pick-and-roll to double-team Robinson and take advantage of his trouble passing over bigger defenders.
‘‘He’s a tough guy to trap,’’ Spoelstra said. ‘‘He is like a whirling toy out there. And just because you think you know where he’s going to go, he doesn’t always go there. We finally had some timely traps and were able to force turnovers, but we know they have counters for that and we’ll need to be ready.’’
Better spacing could be one quick remedy for the traps. Robinson needs to stay away from the sidelines so that he has an escape route.
‘‘I’ve just got to beat the double-team before it gets to me,’’ he said. ‘‘Just quick movement. It can’t be me making the pass — it has to be one of the bigs. We’ll make adjustments.’’
The Bulls had better. It’s no coincidence they’ve lost three straight against the Heat, ever since the trapping on Robinson started coming more frequently and much more aggressively.
Marco Belinelli is good enough to run a pick-and-roll offense, so Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau could go that route, moving Robinson to a two-guard spot, as he’s done before.
Whichever adjustment they make, it’s not just Robinson who will be in the spotlight. Noah knows the bigs have to make the Heat pay for the double-team.
‘‘They make you break down offensively with their trapping, so we have to be ready for that, especially when they trap Nate,’’ Noah said. ‘‘We have to do a better job of giving him outlets and being able to make plays, because once he gets trapped, the play is over.’’