Chicago’s 102-93 loss at home to the Wizards in Game 1 wasn’t demoralizing so much because they lost a close game (the Bulls get in so many of them it’s hard to get worked up over just one of them) but because they had it. Leading by about a dozen over the first half of the third quarter, the Bulls looked ready to ramp up the pressure and suffocate the opposition the way they have so many times before, only to come undone, lose their lead by that quarter and the game by the end of the next. How exactly did it happen? Today we’ll look at how the Bulls performed on defense before looking at the woeful offense tomorrow.
Obviously, the Bulls were unable to contain Nene all night. He basically turned into Dirk Nenetzki, punishing Chicago on jumpers and functioning out of the pick and roll. Let’s take a closer look at how he led the Wizards to victory.
In transition, Hinrich monitors Nene until Boozer gets back. Once Nene gets the ball on the baseline, he could attack the rim and with only Boozer standing between that happening, even though Nene hits the jumper, that he settles is a win for the Bulls.
Here are a couple more deep twos:
The first three are all shots the Bulls are geared toward surrendering. For this last one, Nene is closer to the basket than the others, but if this is the look you concede off of Wall driving straight to the basket, especially with Noah needing to cover for the diminutive D.J. Augustin, you live with that. In fact, when Washington can put the likes of Beal, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster in the corners, it’s a look you don’t really have a choice in conceding.
Nene, as many have mentioned, gives Noah problems, and this possession shows why. Noah historically struggles against the bulkier bigs (Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum before the injuries) and Nene certainly qualifies for that category.
He backs Jo all the way down, turns toward the baseline and finishes with his left hand.
The Wizards did a really good job of attacking Chicago with pick and rolls using Nene as the screener. When Beal was used as the ball handler, Washington did well giving him the ball off a running start to get separation from Jimmy Butler, as he did on this possession. It starts with Beal at the top, receiving the ball from the inbounder. Rather than Beal go straight into the PNR with Nene, he passes to Nene and starts to cut…
but stops and reverses back. Note how this gives Beal the breathing room he needs to operate without Jimmy sticking right on him.
Beal comes around and takes the handoff.
With Jimmy having to go so far around the pick, Jo drops a bit to cut off Beal’s chance of driving, which Beal recognizes, so he gets the ball back to a rolling Nene.
Now Nene has the ball and all eyes are on him. Mike Dunleavy has sunk in off of Webster and with Taj drifting off Trevor Booker to protect a wide open driving lane, D.J. abandons Andre Miller to cover for Taj.
Nene holds just for a second, and Dunleavy deems a wide open Webster three as a bigger threat, and he retreats to Martell. This gives Nene the wide open look. He misses, but it’s an indication of how the Wizards are using their spacing and Nene’s skills to get open looks. Expect the Wizards to go one step further with this as they did on their second possession of the game.
Again (well not really again because this possession happened first, but you get the idea) Beal passes to Nene to start the sequence.
And again, he fakes a cut through the middle to separate and takes the handoff.
Beal goes around the pick, but instantly reverses. Notice the spacing for the other three players. There is no Webster at the wing for Dunleavy to float off of.
With Beal getting middle, Nene is rolling down the side of the floor, not the middle, and he doesn’t have to worry about drawing another defender on his way to the rim.
Noah is unable to recover that quickly, leaving Boozer in a 1-0n-2 where Nene can draw Carlos out enough to bounce to Gortat. He doesn’t need to do that though because Boozer can’t stop that freight train and Nene finishes with a vicious slam:
Aside from a couple faux pas from Augustin and Nazr Mohammed, the Bulls were sufficient in preventing open looks from three, a trend that dates back to the regular season. If the Bulls can keep encouraging Wall and Beal to take pull-up twos rather than let Nene run wild, their defense should hold up their end of the bargain in this series.