CHICAGO -- In the midst of discussing the advice he will offer his younger teammates heading into Friday night's must-win Game 6 against the Boston Celtics, Dwyane Wade revealed part of how the game plan will work moving forward as the Chicago Bulls continue preparations for life without Rajon Rondo.
"For me, I thought for the first time I really ran point the majority of the time in the 34 minutes that I was out there," Wade said after a Game 5 performance Wednesday in which he scored 26 points. "And I just wanted to be aggressive. Whether I was going to get turnovers, whether I was going to shoot the ball, whether I was going to pass the ball, I just had an aggressive mindset, and that's the way I have to be. We're down our point guard that's going to set everybody up, so my best form of me is to be able to be aggressive. And I was able to do that tonight, to try to get guys open shots and try to be aggressive at the same time on the offensive end for myself. I'll try to do the same thing in Game 6."
Rondo, who has been ruled out by the Bulls for Game 6, continues to deal with right thumb and wrist injuries, so it will be Wade and All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler who will be charged with making this beleaguered offense function in the biggest game of the year. Little-used backup Isaiah Canaan will get his second straight start, but if the Bulls' game plan in Game 5 is any indication, it is Wade and Butler who will initiate most of the offense.
"Obviously the dynamic of our team has changed with Rajon out," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said during a conference call Thursday. "We played quite a few stretches last night, really the majority of the game, without a true point guard on the floor. But that's just the reality of the situation we're in right now. And it's probably going to be that way for the rest of the series."
The other reality for Hoiberg is that the reason the Bulls are in this situation isn't just that Rondo suffered a couple of injuries at a terrible time. It's because none of the other point guards on the roster have been proved to be worthy of substantial minutes. Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams have been inconsistent all season and played poorly during big stretches in Games 3 and 4. Cam Payne has played poorly since being traded to the Bulls from Oklahoma City at the deadline. The Bulls could have kept productive backup Spencer Dinwiddie all year, but they opted to sign R.J. Hunter, who appeared in just three games before being released. Canaan played just 21 minutes combined in March and April before logging 34 minutes in Game 4.
To understand just how much of a production breakdown there has been since Rondo went down, consider that in the Bulls' two wins in this series with Rondo, they averaged 108.5 points and 25 assists per game and shot 46.9 percent from the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In their three losses without Rondo, they averaged just 93 points and 19 assists and shot 43.6 percent.
Hoiberg has taken some criticism throughout the season for not being able to find a consistent rotation and sticking with it. But while the second-year coach has made plenty of missteps as he navigates a path through an NBA coaching career, when it comes to the Bulls' deficiency of point guard talent, more blame rests with executives Gar Forman and John Paxson. They're in charge of filling the roster with productive players from top to bottom, and they're the ones who should take the most heat for the flaws that have become more pronounced without Rondo on the floor.
In the short term, the Bulls have to hope that the pain in Butler's aching left knee subsides and he is able to drive to the rim to create more opportunities for himself and his teammates. After drawing 23 free throws in Game 4, Butler went to the line just once in Game 5. The biggest key of all may lie in the hope that Wade can turn back the clock Friday night and set up his teammates in a game they have to win to keep their season going.
"You can't think about one game from elimination," Wade said. "You have to focus on what you can control. You go and watch the film and control how to play your minutes better, how to be better in your minutes, how to help your team, how to give your all the next outing. Like I said, we're going home, where we lost the last two. Focus on the game at hand. Don't focus on it being an elimination game. That does nothing for you."