Tom Thibodeau catches a lot of heat for his offensive coaching. Known for his defensive acumen, his offense tends to be fairly unsuccessful. Some of that is personnel-based, but it’s hard to point to evidence that Thibs is an offensive genius.
That said, he does have his moments. His SLOB (SideLine Out of Bounds) plays generally are top-notch, and every so often, he’ll throw out a really cool set or two. For instance, this set that got Joakim Noah a layup and a foul early in the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The set starts with Kirk Hinrich dribbling up the left side and giving it to Mike Dunleavy on the wing. This is a pretty standard opening for the Bulls. Dunleavy will look to throw it to Carlos Boozer in the post, and if that’s not there, he’ll swing the ball to Noah at the top, then to Hinrich on the opposite wing. The idea is still to get the ball into the post, so Jimmy Butler will come down and set a cross screen for Boozer under the rim.
Nothing’s really happened yet, I just thought you should know Dunleavy will flare to the corner now that he’s made the pass to Noah at the top. Hinrich’s going to finish his cut and get the ball back, Jimmy will screen for Carlos, etc.
OK, so now Kirk has the ball on the wing and Boozer’s about to come out to the block. Thad Young defends him pretty well, so he’ll have to work his way open, but no matter. This set isn’t terribly dependent on precise timing. Meanwhile, Noah will work his way down to the foul line and Jimmy will chill over on the opposite block after setting the screen.
Ah, here’s the fun part. Boozer has the ball on the far side. Jimmy’s going to come up to the foul line around a screen by Noah, then curl hard and dive to the basket, where he’ll get the pass from Boozer. The idea here is to set up kind of a pick and roll on the move. Jimmy’s read is on Noah’s man, Spencer Hawes: if Hawes slides over to pick Jimmy up and prevent him from scoring, he dishes to Noah. If he doesn’t, Jimmy has a layup.
At this point, Philadelphia’s in some trouble. Credit to Evan Turner for crashing into the lane, but he’s too close to the baseline to really do much of anything to stop Noah, who has a wide open lane to the rim. Jimmy, to his credit, doesn’t hesitate to drop the ball to Noah, who goes up and finishes strong. And even if Turner had actually managed to impose himself between Joakim and the rim, Jo is more than capable of making the kickout pass to Dunleavy for three.
So there you go. Here’s the play in full, with Noah’s emphatic “count the basket” gesture.