Game Break: Bulls vs. Warriors

Game Break: Bulls vs. Warriors

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Multiple times.

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.

  1. E’Twaun Moore

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.

  1. Pau Gasol

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.


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.

  1. 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.



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  • Moore should have played primary backup instead of Brooks. Brooks got killed over and over again by Livingston. The Dubs would just throw the ball to Livingston, who would post up Brooks, and get an easy layup. It took Hoiberg several minutes to finally put Brooks out of his misery.

    D Rose was the only one who came to play the other night. Butler looked terrible in the first half. Whatever is going on between them needs to stop and they need to learn to play together. It still looks too much like "your turn, my turn" type iso ball.

    The lack of defense was pathetic. The Bulls have lost their identity and have lost the one person (Noah) who consistently brought the intensity every night.

    Nothing makes me more depressed than having to talk about Moore and Brooks as significant contributors.

  • Tonight is a big test for the Bulls. ESPN and ABC are seriously promoting the heck out of this first Saturday night game. They are playing the Cavaliers after they made a move and fired their coach. If the Bulls don't come to play and get embarrassed, it is time to load up the truck.

    Regarding the analysis, I agree that Moore needs more playing time. But I have felt that for more than two years now. Next the whole Gasol thing is getting tired. He is a valuable offensive player but his defensive play leaves a lot. But the most important thing said is he does not block out. He just jumps and then complains if someone comes over him. Bogut had numerous offensive rebounds against him that gave Golden State too many repeat plays. It was just embarrassing. And Mirotic does the same thing. If neither Gasol nor Mirotic are adding any major offensive output, then the lack of defense and in particular defensive rebounding is disturbing. I hope we don't see replays of last year's playoffs when you saw Tristan Thompson repeatedly getting offensive rebounds.

    If the Bulls have an embarrassing loss, then it is time for Garpax to make some big moves even if it means blowing it up.

    On the other side, if the Bulls embarrass the Cavs, they get them in a panic mode about whether the coaching change was the right move or whether they need to trade Love or make some other big move that could lead to their downfall and open up the East. I just think tonight's game is probably the most important one for the Bulls this season. If it is an impossible mission, all we can say before this message self-destructs is good luck.

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    The Bulls shows up against the Cavs, Lucky for the cavs the wolves come to town tomorrow. How nice would it of been if they were playing a team capable of handing them another loss. Oh well.

    More importantly, Now what's next for the Bulls ?

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