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How the Bulls defensive game plan worked in game 1 against the Cavs

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David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls did some interesting things to cope with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving's individual brilliance. Chicago treated both players differently, but with the same levels of respect. On LeBron, I'd be remiss if I didn't praise Jimmy Butler's effort on LeBron screen-and-rolls, clinging to James' hip ridiculously well. The Bulls went with a sunk in coverage -- something they've had success with against LeBron in the past -- and it looked something like this:

Butler navigated his way under each and almost every screen when LeBron was the ball-handler, which is supposed to turn James into a jump shooter. The sunk-in aspect of the coverage comes courtesy of Pau Gasol, whose responsibility is to never extent out too far when James is the ball-handler. The Bulls want jumpers out of LeBron. LeBron, however, wouldn't prefer jumpers. Check out how tentative he is on this release -- he pump fakes before shooting! -- even though it goes in:

Now, LeBron's definitely got an advantage on Butler in the post. He's simply too big for Jimmy, which isn't something you can say very often. Chicago made clear that they'd send help to Jimmy and live with making someone else beat them:

LeBron's going to be more efficient in the coming games, that much I'm sure of. He's LeBron James. And while Butler played strong defense, LeBron's going to get the best of any matchup when it's all said and done. The same can be said for Irving. The Bulls showed him a ton of respect by pulling out their coverage super high, almost going so far as blitzing him in pick-and-roll:

Seeing Gasol ready to defend at the three-point line was extremely rare during the regular season. With Irving, the Bulls are willing to try it because his shot is so lethal. They went over as many picks as they could. And, again, were content with letting anyone else beat them:

The Bulls, generally, emphasize help defense as much as anybody in the league. Tom Thibodeau will send help until supporting players make them pay, and fortunately for Chicago, the Cavs' supporting players did not in Game 1. Also, this is exactly where the Cavs miss Kevin Love. Iman Shumpert, Mike Miller, James Jones and Matthew Dellavedova making shots is the sword the Bulls are willing to die by.

And lastly, since rebounding completes the defense, one quick shout out to Taj Gibson. This is what great rebounders look like, they concern themselves with the opposing team's best rebounder. Let's hope the rest of the team took note of this: