The Chicago Bulls’ win in Toronto on Monday wasn’t without a nerve-wracking ending. And with the team’s fourth straight victory officially in the books, I wanted to break down my three favorite plays from Monday night.
This first one is simple and shows an early step toward the Bulls’ offense becoming more dynamic. Let’s start with a clip from one of the previous games.
The Bulls initiate a lot of their offense with this simple concept. Usually, either Lonzo Ball or DeMar DeRozan brings the ball up. Then Patrick Williams cuts across to set a screen for the ball handler. And while Williams is making this cut, Nikola Vucevic will use a brush screen in an attempt to create separation between Williams and his defender.
The Toronto Raptors had obviously scouted this sequence and were going to be prepared for it in Monday’s game. So Billy Donovan took advantage of that and came up with this.
Lonzo brings the ball up as usual. Vucevic steps up to screen Pat’s defender and all is normal. However, this time Williams takes one step toward the screen then immediately cuts for the basket. Ball fits in a perfect pass as he always does and Williams gets an easy bucket. It’s a wonderful new wrinkle in a rapidly expanding offense.
Helping The Hedge
The pick-and-roll is the most common play in basketball and any good team has to have a plan to defend it. The Bulls are no different. When opposing teams run the pick-and-roll, the Bulls opt to use a defensive system known as hedging.
The still image above shows the Bulls preparing to hedge the pick-and-roll. The Bulls are going to position one defender on either side of the screener. Here, Lonzo Ball is on one side and Nikola Vucevic is on the other. The goal is that when the ball handler goes around the screen, Vucevic will be there to stop them from driving. Vucevic’s job is to stand in front of Fred VanVleet until Ball is able to get around the screen and reclaim his man. This is a good coverage system, but its flaw is that the roll man is left wide open.
The Bulls hedge as usual and the roller, Precious Achiuwa, is wide open. And the Bulls need someone else to rotate and pick him up. Luckily, second-year forward Patrick Williams is just in time as he skies up to pin the lob to the rim. For added measure, Lonzo Ball rises to emphatically reject the Raptors’ second effort as well.
Wings That Win
Running an NBA offense is hard work and relying on just a few players to do it for a full 48 minutes a night can be taxing on a team’s star players. So it was exciting to see two of the Bulls’ young bench players linking up to perfectly execute a dribble handoff last night.
Alize Johnson screens off Troy Brown Jr., who glides down the lane for the crafty finish through traffic. Brown Jr. had missed every shot he had taken inside the arc in the Bulls’ first three games. However, night the career 65% finisher was back to normal as he went 4-for-5 on two-point shot attempts on Monday night. It’s quite a refreshing scene to watch Zach LaVine nonchalantly spectate as his backup forwards get an easy bucket.
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