The Bucks are running through a pretty similar game plan. On both sides of the ball, there are a few things that are happening repeatedly, and it's time for Tom Thibodeau to prove he's a playoff coach and make some adjustments.
Bulls can't pass out of double teams
The Bucks are hard double teaming and collapsing all over the place. They'll double guards on the perimeter, they double Gasol any time he touches the ball in the post, and they collapse the whole defense when either Butler or Rose drive to the hoop.
Chicago has not been able to find the open man. They've frequently turned the ball over in these situations, especially because the remaining defenders are aggressively playing passing lanes, or they've just been able to release the ball to someone else who's open but not a threat to score.
In the end, the Bulls are either using too much time which frequently results in bad shots, forcing shots through double teams and getting blocked frequently, or simply turning the ball over.
The solution? The Bulls could do a few things. One thing I think they desperately need is to try a couple small ball lineups with Aaron Brooks, Derrick Rose, and Jimmy Butler playing together.
Brooks gives the Bulls something dangerous on offense when the opposing team is putting a lot of pressure on Jimmy/Rose. His ability to shoot and drive gives them something special.
If Gasol is on the floor, it will also be much more difficult to hard double him on a touch or trap the pass to him. If you hard double off of Brooks, you can't simply just leap out at him like you might with Dunleavy because he's such a threat to beat you off the dribble if you try.
The next thing the Bulls need is more motion in their offense. When a team is trapping you like crazy, you need to run a lot more back cuts which will catch the defense leaping out too far. The Bulls have been a great team at running back cuts all season long, so it's surprising that we haven't seen them run them more effectively now.
However, the Bulls are mostly standing around statically waiting for the ball rather than trying to move towards it or hit a guy in motion. The aggressive Bucks defense has found ways to jump these passing lanes and get steals.
This is what happens with Rose/Butler both play poorly
Butler wasn't abysmal on offense as he made his way to the foul line but still shot just 5/21 for 20 points. Derrick Rose shot just 5/20 for 13 points. That's overall 41 shots for the pair for 33 points. Rose added six turnovers, Butler two, and another six possessions used on FT attempts.
That makes 55 possessions for those 33 points which is simply awful. Rose has now had three rough games out of five. This is Butler's first poor outing.
Gasol scored a ton of points, but hurt the Bulls so much on defense. I'll give him a neutral grade overall. He at least gave the Bulls a ton of points even if there were lots of turnovers, flopping, whining, and overall ugliness to his game. It's more than you can say of anyone else on the Bulls offense.
I liked the way Gibson and Noah played, but Gibson is clearly still hurt and asked to get subbed out at one point while only playing 14 minutes. Noah played very aggressively in the first half looking for his shot and putting pressure on Milwaukee with his aggressiveness.
He missed a couple that could have gone either way, barely rolling out in, in the second half which hurt, but was a big positive overall.
On the defensive end, it's pretty straight forward
The Bucks are doing damage in a few basic ways.
1: The Bulls have done a poor side of defending the weak side corner giving Milwaukee lots of open corner threes which is always a negative.
2: Pau Gasol has plays really poorly on defense and frequently loses his man which leads to offensive rebounds or a completely broken defense as other players cover for him.
3: Derrick Rose is getting killed off the dribble.
That said, the Bulls defense wasn't all that big a problem tonight. The Bucks only shot 42% and 37% from the three point line. They didn't get an inordinately large number of free throw attempts (but were great from the line for once).
There's nothing that can be done for Gasol/Rose except continue to live with it. Not every player on the floor is going to be a defender. However, Chicago needs to be more aggressive on their close outs on the three point line against good shooters.
The Bucks did an okay job of driving this game, but for the most part they've done a very poor job of finding shots off the dribble, so make them work for them rather than giving up open jumpers.
Not so bad as it seems
The Bulls still need to find continuity. They still need to grow as a team. As bad as this loss was, as much as I wish the Bulls won, it's better to have this flop of a game now than against Cleveland in game one.
Now let's just hope Chicago doesn't manage to enter the history books as the first NBA team to drop a series after opening up 3-0, but hey, it could be worse, we could be Atlanta and be at 2-2.
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