After suffering a close loss to the Dallas Mavericks Saturday night, Chicago now is 1-4 in their past five games. While the Bulls have seen an uptick in its offense during said stretch, 13th in scoring at 105 points per 100 possessions, the defense has suffered: allowing 108.6 points per 100 possessions, sixth worst, resulting in a -3.7 net rating overall.
Watching the Bulls defense Saturday night was pretty confounding given that they're currently sporting the league's fifth best defense. Chicago's execution against Dallas defensively was extremely poor, I haven't seen this team be so out of sync on that end this season.
Tale of the Tape
One of the biggest issues the Bulls had defensively was in the pick-and-roll, specifically in how the man guarding the ball handler was maneuvering the screen. On multiple occasions throughout the night the Bulls were getting caught by screens because they had no idea whether or not to go over or under them, especially in regards to JJ Barea. On the night, Barea went nova, going 7-8 from three point distance, three of those made attempts came because of the Bulls execution, or lack thereof, in the PnR.
Those were only a select few of the possessions that the Bulls had miscommunication in the PnR, but it's clear guys weren't on the same page. Although what was the most bewildering aspect of the Bulls defense Saturday was the team's overall rotations. Throughout the game guys were all over the place in terms of their rotations, and there seemed to be absolutely zero communication or general awareness.
Jimmy Butler was pretty poor defensively Saturday night, and it's not often you'll see a sentence consisting of those words. For whatever reason, he was a step slow in his rotations against Dallas and a couple times he caught himself losing track of his man. I'll tally this one up to a one night blip (for him), but with regards Saturday night, it was adding salt into an open wound.
There's so much madness in this single possession that leads to an eventual three pointer for Dallas. Aaron Brooks slips trying to catch up to Devin Harris which results in a chain reaction of impending mismatches. Taj Gibson ends up on Harris as he recovers for Brooks, as a result Doug McDermott gets slotted on Dirk Nowitzki and it essentially snowballs from there. Gibson leaves Harris to try and help Doug who's on Dirk, who then passes out of the double team as Nikola Mirotic loses his man, leaving Derrick Rose playing one on two on the weak-side. Not ideal.
But this, this right here is the gem of the night. This single play encompasses the Bulls defense in that game.
Doug, Doug, Dougie, Doug, Doug...
And finally, you knew we couldn't get through this without mentioning Pau Gasol, right? I can sit here and fill this up with endless highlights and rant on about his defense, but that'd be beating a dead horse. However, if there's one, single piece of writing the completely encompasses the Gasol predicament, it's Jonathan Tjarks in his recap of this very game.
The thing about the Bulls right now is that it seems to all come back to Pau Gasol, who may or may not have some type of devil's bargain with the front office that guarantees him a starting spot. The problem is there's a real ceiling on any team that starts and gives a 35-year old Pau huge minutes. He just can't play defense anymore (which only makes Tim Duncan's ability to remain relevant at that side of the ball all the more impressive) and the only way for him to be effective is to demand the ball on offense and clog up the middle of the lane.
That's only part of what he touches on, the entirety of his comments are a must read.
While Saturday night presented various issues defensively, there's a bigger problem at hand that goes beyond the Dallas game. Joakim Noah's injury has placed an immense burden on the Bulls negative frontcourt defenders. The only plus defender being Gibson, Fred Hoiberg now must rely on rookie Bobby Portis, Mirotic and Gasol to help make up for Noah's absence. The Bulls five game struggles defensively may continue, especially with Noah on the mend for the coming weeks. If the Bulls want to stay in "contention" in the East, they'll need the aforementioned froncourt players to step up defensively. Which is scary to say the least.