By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) – Time and again this season, the Bulls have used some variation of “miscommunication” as a clichéd, blanket reasoning for at-times defensive struggles that are far more complex and layered.
On Monday night in crunch time, the “miscommunication” line really did carry some weight in a crucial breakdown.
Locked in an 84-84 tie with a little more than a minute remaining at the United Center, the Bulls lost Heat forward Chris Bosh in Miami’s pick-and-pop that was led by Dwyane Wade’s probe into the paint, and Bosh buried the wide-open 19-footer that proved to be the go-ahead bucket in his team’s 89-84 win.
As many a clever foe does, the Heat attacked Bulls center Pau Gasol, who dropped into the paint to corral the penetrating Wade. Butler collapsed too, leaving Bosh, and couldn’t recover through traffic. Following a timeout right after the key bucket, Butler, Gasol and assistant Jim Boylen could be seen animatedly discussing the coverage.
“It was a switch as he got past the free-throw line,” coach Fred Hoiberg explained of the coverage.
Based on those words, that would be Butler’s responsibility to peel back to Bosh.
Regarding his role, Butler cited a “miscommunication” but still seemed unclear of the desired coverage. What was supposed to happen on the play?
“I don’t know,” Butler said. “That’s what happens when you miscommunication. You don’t know whether to switch or stay with your own. We just got to talk it out … That’s just on both of us.”
Gasol added more intrigue to the play in saying that Butler fell, though it seemed the vital play was a lost cause for the Bulls regardless.
“On that play, Jimmy tripped,” Gasol said. “When we have those types of players in the pick and pop, I take care of the paint, and the guards veer back and take care of the shooter, because they’re not – for the most part – post-up players. So it’s not a mismatch when we make those switches. But he tripped on that play specifically, and the switch didn’t happen, and Bosh got an open shot.”
How the Bulls (25-19) are more than halfway through the season and not on the same page defensively on a play that’s literally been run hundreds of times against them is both befuddling and reflective of their inconsistency. It’s such a broken record that Hoiberg himself barely has an answer, while Gasol had to face a leading-but-legitimate question.
Is this a crisis?
“If you can call it a crisis, you should say it’s been a crisis all season long,” Gasol said. “It’s just who we are.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.