Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls have quickly been dumped by the NBA as a team to watch, banished to ESPN2 in favor of the Boston/Atlanta series. Hard to blame them really, but it's just one more sign of disrespect from the league to add on to the disrespect from opponents. Chicago needs to stand up and smack Philly in the mouth to get some of that respect back.
Now or never?
In reality, the Bulls likely need to earn a split in the next two games, but if they can't get this win tonight then Bulls fans, including this one, will doubt whether or not they can get up off the mat next game. If the Bulls drop both games in Philly this thing is over and a potential title run will end in first round agony and an off-season full of questions.
Bad offense creates bad defense
I've seen lots of media types harp on the Bulls bad defense and poor effort from last game. However, I've seen few actually make the correct correlation between the offense and the defense. Philly had tons of transition opportunities because of the turnovers and long jumpers yielding long rebounds.
Chicago got put in a position where it had to defend a transition attack repeatedly, and Philly had too much of an athletic advantage on the break for the Bulls to control them. Chicago can fix most of its defensive woes by playing better offense.
So how do they play better offense?
Get the ball up the court faster
At least jog the ball up the court every possession regardless of whether you have numbers or not. The Bulls took an absurd number of their shots with the shot clock winding down last game, and many of these were due to the team walking the ball up the court and taking 10-12 seconds before the ball reached the opposing three point line.
If the Bulls simply jog the ball up the court instead, they can shave 5-6 seconds off this team and have extra time to work the offense. It's a simple thing, and it doesn't need to be a sprint after every made basket, but display some urgency in how fast the ball gets to the opposing three point line.
Beyond getting more time to work with, Chicago will likely create at least two or three easy baskets due to early offense opportunities where Philly's defense is still moving even if there isn't a true transition opportunity.
Get decisive on the trap
Philly is trapping the Bulls hard, and they need to quickly and decisively find a way to play out of it. Last game, Watson and Lucas typically spend 5-6 seconds dribbling when the trap came and were unable to hit an open man with the pass. Philly has a bunch of athletic, long armed defenders to make it difficult to pass out of the trap, however early recognition will allow the guards to pass out of the trap before it arrives.
When the second defender starts to attack the PG, the Bulls need to have everyone aware of exactly where to move, so that they can release the ball to the open man immediately. They need to design a strategy so that when your defender leaves to trap you immediately have a responsibility to get to an open spot on the floor and have the ball delivered.
Every player on the Bulls outside of Omer Aisk is capable of attacking the basket or shooting a jumper if left open, so the player who gets the ball on the release then needs to immediately press the issue and attack to force a Philly rotation which should lead to a quality shot opportunity.
Move the ball
The Bulls weren't necessarily being selfish last game, but they had terrible ball movement due to attacking the Philly trap too late and losing too much time on the shot clock getting the ball into the offensive set. Make no mistake, Chicago is going to need to pass their way to victory to create quality opportunities.
If they give themselves more time and better passing lanes then it should facilitate better ball movement, but everyone needs to be a willing passer once the first two goals are accomplished.
More Rip Hamilton
The Bulls need a secondary offensive creator on the floor, and while he can be awfully dicey at times, Rip Hamilton is the perhaps the best offensive creator left on the team. Chicago needs to keep him on the floor as he facilitates ball movement, can create decent looks, and get the Bulls some volume offense even if it lacks efficiency at times. He also has the size to not be disrupted by the 76ers nearly so much as our other guards.
The Bulls need to keep Hamilton out there for a good 30 minutes tonight and allow him to help as a release valve on this offense when the PGs get bottled up by Philly's athletic perimeter defense. This is particularly true when John Lucas is on the floor, but unfortunately, Hamilton has rarely played in those situations.
Show some pride
While the adjustments listed above will hopefully give the Bulls better shot opportunities, fewer turnovers, and less transition attacks to defend, the Bulls still need to show more pride defensively. The game clearly compounded on them last time where things went wrong, and they simply couldn't stem the tide.
The interior rotation of the big men last game was amongst the worst I've ever seen from Chicago this season, and while they were put in bad positions frequently, they clearly became discouraged and with the discouragement came even worse play. I won't accuse the team of poor effort level, but they definitely let Philadelphia get in their head and need to rebuild the confidence they had playing when Rose was out before.
A game on the road is just what Chicago needs right now. The home fans didn't have much to cheer about last game, but the energy at the United Center was awfully low last game, the mood around Chicago is despondent. Casual fans are already moving on to baseball season [like anything better is going to happen there], and the Bulls may regroup better in a hostile environment than a friendly, yet apathetic, one.
While the 76ers looked like the radically better team last game, I can't yet believe everything I've seen from these Rose-less Bulls the past couple months was a mirage. I won't say there aren't doubts. Of course there are doubts. Of course after last game you wonder if they get back off the mat.
That said, I can't believe that they're going to go down easily. I still believe in this group of guys. I think they still believe in themselves. I think they come out and show it tonight.
Filed under: Game Threads