After watching the Bulls play the Warriors, I wanted to go through some of the themes I saw in the game in a "Game Break" segment.
- Guarding the Pick-and-Roll
The Warriors are basically a cheat code. They have at least 4, but often 5 guys on the court at all times that you can’t leave, including one current MVP, Stephen Curry, who shoots a higher percentage on catch and shoot 3s (48.7) than one former MVP, Derrick Rose, does in the restricted area (48.4). Add in the most versatile player in the league, a rim protecting, floor spacing, point forward in Draymond Green, and the Curry - Green pick-and-roll becomes the most unguardable play in the game for Golden State.
Although there are a variety of ways to guard the PnR, the key is to try getting over the screens to contest on Curry's shots, but it’s tough to close out on Curry fast enough to beat his release. Teams can also switch, but Curry makes a fool of the big man, or dishes to Green who goes in for a layup, or finds Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala or Klay Thompson for a smooth corner 3.
Here’s a doozy. Watch how this play manifests. Green gets a back screen from Leandro Barbosa, which slows Butler down enough to get a wide open lane off the PnR with Curry.
Awesome creativity from Luke Walton/Steve Kerr.
If you want to compete with the Warriors, you’ll have to try some unorthodox defensive schemes. So, I love the idea of starting Jimmy Butler on Green so the Bulls can switch Butler onto Curry on PnRs. Obviously, it won’t work every time (see above) but it’s that kind of creative thinking that gets the Warriors out of their game.
And it worked at times, for the Bulls. This is about as well as anyone can defend the Warriors.
*A few times when the Bulls tried cross-matching in the first quarter, Taj Gibson switched onto Thompson. This is a disaster waiting to happen. If the Bulls are going to try it, they should shift Tony Snell onto Thompson and place Gibson on Barnes.
Despite the execution on the first stand of the game, the Bulls spent most of the night getting lost on switches, not communicating or lazily going through the motions, which is easy to do when down big against the Warriors.
Out of Bounds Under, Defense
The Bulls got really lazy over the course of this game. Granted, they were down by 15 or 20 most of the time, but giving up a layup on an out-of-bounds-under is perhaps the most embarrassing way to get beaten in basketball.
The Bulls gave up lay-ups like this, a direct basket cut with no resistance. Pathetic.
There were even a few more. Again, it’s tough to finish off games when there’s no chance of a comeback and the game has been over since halfway through the first quarter, but this just makes the blowout look worse.
E’Twaun Moore needs more minutes. He’s the only backup guard on the team who can defend and score. He’s been playing quite a bit more lately, though some of that has to do with Kirk Hinrich’s injury. In the past 10 games, Moore has posted 7.1 points per game on 61.8 percent shooting from the field and 40.0 from behind the arc and a +3.9 net rating.
Against the Warriors, he went 6/9 and played fairly solid defense on Curry. At the very least, he’s able to do this, which can’t be said for Aaron Brooks.
Being able to put pressure on Curry on both ends is the only way to disrupt his game.
Unfortunately, Moore is not respected as a floor spacer, so his offensive impact is limited as Curry can go under on PnRs without fear.
Moore definitely has potential to be a nice compliment to both Rose and Butler. His defense is really strong, even against post ups, but he needs to be a higher volume 3-point shooter (only taking 1.0 per game this season) while maintaining his efficiency to be a real threat.
Offensively, it was certainly not Pau Gasol’s night. His first game without a field goal since 2002, Gasol went 0-8. In his defense, Green is an absolute destroyer of worlds on defense.
Draymond Green is averaging 0.62 points PPP on defense against isolations. Fewest in league among players w > 40 poss. He has 106
— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) January 21, 2016
This is why the Warriors don’t skip a beat when they go to Green at center in their “Death Lineup”, and it’s why so many teams fail in trying to replicate the Warriors style. Teams can’t go attack Green with their post player, because even though he’s smaller, he’s the best isolation defender in the league. Green is one of a kind to be able to facilitate and shoot the way he does on offense, while protecting the rim and defending in space at the highest level.
If Gasol isn’t going to provide you 15-20 points on pick-and-pops and isolation post ups, his inability to play defense is going to make him a net-negative. He forgets to step up and contest on drives and never boxes out.
Teams like Golden State are going to expose him for every flaw, especially on PnRs.
This PnR defense is so typical of Gasol. When teams attack him, he likes to give himself space so that a quick guard doesn’t blow by him. That works fine if it’s not Curry. Against Curry, he has to blitz and make Curry give up the ball. That never happens with Gasol because he’s too slow to get to the shooter. Instead he has to stick with his man to prevent the roll pass and pray that the defender, in this case, Moore, can get over the screen to contest.
Here, he does neither. He gets stuck in quicksand and Andrew Bogut torches him for the alley oop.
Rose special but not replicable
Let me begin by saying how fun Rose’s performance was during this game. He clearly had a little extra pep in his step going up against the former champs and the first point guard, since Rose, to win MVP.
Making shots he has missed all year, finishing at the rim, the floater was falling, it was great to watch him put on a show.
Especially plays like this where he doesn’t just cross the timeline with 21 seconds, but he explodes out of the backcourt all the way to the rim.
In part, the Bulls were trying to slow the pace of the game to take Golden State out of their rhythm, but the Bulls are not known for their transition basketball. Ranking bottom five in the league in percentage of points coming in transition, it would be a great use of the skills Butler and Rose have to get out in the open court, where they can attack a defense on it’s heels. This is where both Rose and Butler are at their best.
I do worry that this performance will not become the norm for Rose. Although he was perceived to have been attacking the basket, he only shot 4 times in the restricted area but made 5/10 from the midrange, where he shoots 39.4 percent on the year. Boy, did I love watching him shine, but color me skeptical.