A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Why the Bulls will be in trouble after the 1st round

with 3 comments

Derrick Rose

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

Despite an evenly played series, the Chicago Bulls jumped out to a 3-0 lead against the Indiana Pacers – now 3-1, and should close it out in Chicago in Game 5.

There have been teams who’ve looked shaky in early rounds but still proved title winners or contenders. The 2008 Celtics needed 7 games to dispatch the Hawks in their 1st round. The 97 and 98 Bulls had low margins of victory in their first round sweeps. But I believe the Bulls struggle to dominate the Pacers indicate flaws that will likely come back to haunt them.

Offensively the Bulls are too much of a one man team. Indiana is throwing all their perimeter defenders at Derrick Rose and forcing him into poor shooting, exhausting nights. The lack of 3pt shooters and or dependable scoring inside from Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah has clogged up the Bulls offense. They are averaging 93 points a game in the series and only scored 88 and 84 in the last two when Rose’s scoring has dried up. Chicago’s remaining playoff opponents are likely to use a similar strategy. Rose has played harder than anyone else all season long and with the Bulls (perhaps misguided) push to overtake the Spurs for the #1 overall seed, never took rest. It may be catching up to him – he looks tired to me. If Atlanta closes out their series against Orlando, he will face another series of tough perimeter defenders draped on him. I don’t know if Rose can keep this energy level up for 20 more playoff games needed to win a title.

Tom Thibodeau comes from the Larry Brown and Scott Skiles school of defense, defense and more defense. Reportedly the team’s practices were almost entirely defense orientated. They are showing it. The team almost never runs pick and rolls with Rose and Boozer, a seemingly perfect pick and roll/pick and pop PF. This would open up the offense for Rose, Boozer and the rest of the team. The team’s pick and roll inability is in part due to Rose not specializing in it, but moreso, it’s apparant the team is just not used to them. Every rose has its thorn. People got so caught up in praising Tom Thibodeau‘s impact on defense and calling him the true MVP of the team, that the Bulls offensive weaknesses all year have been ignored. Like Skiles and Brown, Thibodeau’s extremist defensive philosophy has drained the team of much offensive identity other than “give it to Rose and let him create”, which is bound to be exposed in the playoffs.

Defensively they’ve been excellent per usual, holding Indiana to a 90.5 points per game. The Bulls will be facing much more talented offensive teams the rest of the way that are difficult to dependably shut down. I wrote before the playoffs that if they can’t hold a team to under 104 points in the biggest game of the year, do they have a gear where they’ll score 105? After the first round it appears winning when they hold an opponent under 95 points isn’t a given.

The Bulls outmuscled the Pacers by playing hard d and having arguably the best closer in the game. It will not be easy going forward. My hunch says that if they play Boston or Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, the disparity in all-star offensive talent will be too much to overbear for the Bulls. When the Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett foursome or Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh threesome start going offensively, you simply can’t hold them to 90 points a game to win the series. With an ugly offense, a 10 point deficit on the road is hard to overcome and a 10 point lead at home can fall in a 2-3 minute dry spell.  The Bulls had a terrific regular season but I believe when it comes down to it, they simply don’t have the talent or offensive balance to win the title in a season this competitive and they will be left looking for an upgrade at the SG position to take pressure off Rose and provide complimentary scoring. I still think Ben Gordon is the perfect fit. Perhaps they can figure out that Rose, Boozer two man game as well.

Written by jr.

April 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Why they won’t be in trouble (until the third round): they’ll be playing the woeful Hawks or the depressing Magic!

    Chicago doesn’t look especially weak to me, and with Miami and Boston all but paired off they have some time to get their act together. The offense needs to get back to involving Boozer and Deng more and perhaps needs an element of subtlety to go with the brute force Rose-against-the-world approach.

    Miami could be a bad match-up for the Bulls. But that’s getting way ahead of ourselves, and for the meantime the number one overall seed is in a pretty good position. Especially with the Hawks and Magic both showing serious flaws of their own.


    April 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

  2. I’m extremely interested in seeing how the playoffs play out, with the Bulls as one of the more interesting cases to me. When I wrote my postseason predictions, I stated that the Bulls were relatively weaker than their record/ranking would indicate because, essentially, they played at postseason intensity long before the postseason began…which translated to more regular season wins, but less room to really get better in the postseason. It’s still very early, but so far nothing that I’ve seen from them in the first round would make me want to revise my story.

    The Bulls, much like the Nuggets, are a difficult match-up in the regular season. They are a strong defensive team, they play hard, and they have a uniquely gifted offensive engine. But the problem is, much of their defensive strength is predicated on the defensive strength of their 2nd unit vs the opponent’s 2nd unit. But 2nd units play much less in the postseason, which weakens one of their main strengths. And coaches get to game-plan specifically for your team in the postseason, which further allows championship-level teams to game-plan for your weaknesses. And as Matt points out, their offense is essentially a haymaker (Rose) without much else in the way of jabs or set-up punches…I don’t think the championship caliber squads (Heat, Celtics, Lakers, etc) will be knocked out with a haymaker that they get to plan for. And I don’t see where the Bulls have a reliable plan ‘B’ to get them to the promised land.

    Will be interesting to see it play out.


    April 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm

  3. awesome analysis..played out exactly like u predicted


    May 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm

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