Traveling to Chicago

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (16-25) at Chicago Bulls (24-16)
  • Date: January 23, 2013
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

Fresh off a home victory against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls will host the Detroit Pistons tonight and try to win back-to-back games as they attempt to gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings.

These two teams met previously on December 7th, and the Bulls were victorious thanks to a career night by Joakim Noah. The former Gator was sensational on his way to 30 points, 23 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks on 12-for-19 field goal shooting.

Noah’s performance was in fact quite impressive, but it highlighted Chicago’s ability to dominate the interior as the Bulls scored 58 points in the paint and finished the game with a 41-28 rebounding edge.

That contest was a shootout by Chicago’s standards, as both teams scored over 100 points but the rematch could in fact offer fewer fireworks.

Tom Thibodeau’s team does a wonderful job of overloading the strong side of the court and forcing ball handlers on the wing to make the cross court pass to a teammate on the weak side of the court. More often than not, it’s the only option available for teams that run side pick-and-rolls against Chicago.

The Bulls’ defense requires players to constantly be in help positions, thus they often look like they are in a zone defense because of all the ground they cover and territory they survey as the ball handler gets ready to make his move on the wing.

In addition, with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson patrolling the paint and playing active pick-and-roll defense as well as great individual defense — on perimeter and interior against big men — it makes things complicated for opponents to produce high quality shots.

And keep in mind, Kirk Hinrich, Richard Hamilton, Luoul Deng (when healthy and available to play) and Jimmy Butler are all good individual defenders whose deficiencies are nullified under Thibodeau’s superior defensive scheme.

But the vaunted Bulls defense still has the tiniest of cracks.

The players play a bruising physical brand of basketball, but if officials call the game a little tightly, it takes away from Chicago’s level of aggression on that side of the ball. Also, the Bulls are a great rebounding team collectively, but if teams spread them out and make them chase after the rock through screens and solid ball movement whereby good shots follow, they can get out of rebounding position and allow the opposition to sneak in for second chance scores.

This happens particularly against teams with good low post players, because they tend to help create high percentage shots for teammates after getting swarmed on the block or because multiple defenders rotated to them when diving to the basket after a pick-and-roll and thus allowed another player to shake free. The Portland Trail Blazers (LaMarcus Aldridge), Los Angeles Clippers (Blake Griffin) and Los Angeles Lakers (Dwight Howard) to name a few were capable of matching up on the boards and corralling a few offensive rebounds against the Bulls this season precisely because of this.

Obviously, Detroit does not have any outstanding post player to attract this type of attention, but running some action between Greg Monroe and a ball handler could serve as an adequate alternative provided that the Pistons focus on sharing the ball to get defenders moving to open up the lanes for drives and offensive rebounding position. If Lawrence Frank and the rest of the coaching staff simply allow Brandon Knight and company to camp out on the perimeter and avoid moving without the ball, the Pistons might set the sport of basketball back a few years with a low final point total.

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