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The Bulls Game 2 Improbable Performer Award went to Paul Zipser

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It was Paul Zipser who took the role of leading the bench in Game 2

Chicago Bulls v Boston Celtics - Game Two Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In Game 1 it was Bobby Portis who came alive off the bench for the Chicago Bulls. The former first round pick stepped up with a huge performance in his first career playoff game, knocking down clutch jumpers when called upon. Portis was virtually non-existent in Game 2 however, only registering nine minutes and scoring three points. But Chicago still got a surprise contribution that helped them in their 111-97 win, as this time it was Paul Zipser.

Coming off as the first guy off the bench, Zipser scored 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting while knocking down two triples. He was the guy that Fred Hoiberg trusted the most out of all the bench reserve guys, registering 29 minutes. Zipser’s defensive performance wasn’t as flashy as Game 1,, but he was still good enough not to be a defensive liability. A solid performance from a guy who was playing overseas just a year ago.

Zipser’s real impact came on the offensive end, with him being the only Bull to score double digits off the bench.

In this play Zipser was able to take advantage of a series of mismatches that was possible through the lineup Chicago had out on the court. During this stretch, the Bulls rolled out a lineup of Rondo-Butler-Zipser-Mirotic-Lopez which was countered by a lineup of Thomas-Bradley-Crowder-Johnson-Horford. The guard matchups were standard with Rondo being guarded by Thomas and Bradley, the Celtics best defender, on Butler. But then things got a little tricky for Boston. With Nikola Mirotic being a three-point threat and someone who isn’t likely to stay in the paint as much, Boston chose to stick Crowder on him. It made sense considering that Crowder was more suited than Amir Johnson who can’t stay in front of Mirotic when Niko puts the ball on the floor. But then it left Johnson having to guard Zipser, giving Chicago an instant mismatch they can take advantage of.

When Zipser receives the ball at the top of the three-point line, there is nobody on him. That’s because Johnson is already in the paint and doesn’t realize he has to guard the guy with the ball. But when he does, he goes rushing at him. But at the same time he is doing that, Zipser is rushing at the basket and leaves Johnson at a disadvantage. With an open man running towards the rim for an open layup, Avery Bradley, who is located at the corner, rushes into help but doesn’t go too far to make sure that there is no kick-out towards Butler. Due to this, Zipser is given enough space to go right through and make a good right-handed layup. He also showed the ability to not just get shots at the basket but from the rest of the court.

This time the play is run exactly for Zipser, and it’s pretty simple. Have him wrap around a screen from Cristiano Felicio to get him an open jumper near the free-throw line. The play works exactly the way they drew it up. With Thomas guarding Zipser, Felicio was able to get enough a solid enough screen to disrupt his ability to stay directly next to his man and forced him to be behind Zipser when he caught the ball. Kelly Olynyk, who is guarding Felicio, wisely drops back behind the screen knowing that there is no chance Felicio catches the ball and shoots the ball from near the three-point line. But he drops a little too deep (near the restricted area) and by the time Zipser catches the ball to shoot it, Olynyk is too far away. It was still a difficult shot to hit for Zipser with Marcus Smart right next to him. Still, credit to the Bulls for taking what the defense gave them and drawing up a play to once again take advantage of a mismatch (Thomas on Zipser)

Zipser has shown flashes of potential all season, and Game 2 was an example of him fitting into a good role on this team. Someone who can come off the bench, play decent defense, and certainly put the ball into the basket.