Jordan Kahn breaks down the latest NBA trends in video form. You can find more of his work at Basketball Things and follow him on Twitter @AyoitsJordan.
This post is part of our playoff preview series here at Hickory-High, complete with both statistical and video breakdowns. Check out the rest of the previews here.
Despite finishing the season with very different records, the Bulls and Sixers played three close games when they met in the regular season. With the help of MySynergy Sports, let’s take a look at some different elements of the teams and how they can attack each other.
Derrick Rose is going to be an obvious focal point for opposing defenses, so the Bulls will need to go to their supporting cast at times. Richard Hamilton can be one of the Bulls to lend Rose a hand. After years of running off screens in Detroit, Richard Hamilton moved to Chicago to do the same thing. Hamilton is a willing passer and has tons of experience coming off screens, so he knows when to give it up to the screener for an easy layup. If the screener’s man leaves to help on an open Hamilton, Rip has no qualms about dumping it off to Carlos Boozer/Joakim Noah/Omer Asik/Taj Gibson for an easy finish. The clips below show a few examples. If teams choose to help on Hamilton, the rest of the defense needs to rotate extremely quickly to prevent a layup.
In reality, however, the Sixers shouldn’t be so eager to help on Hamilton. His per-possession numbers when coming off screens have been in decline for the past few years. When coming off screens this year, his field goal percentage is down to 38 percent and he has drawn a foul on only one percent of possessions. He also no longer gets to the rim when coming off screens; he’s shot only one layup when coming off a screen this year.
Defenses have a few options against Hamilton if they don’t want to overexpose their rotations, and both options turn Hamilton into a shot-maker. First, the screener’s man can just stay at home and force Hamilton to make a tricky shot with a defender closing down from behind. Another option is for Hamilton’s man to go underneath the screen instead of following him over the screen. Hamilton will fade out to the corner and be forced to make the long two-pointer with a defender running at him. Hamilton has been a below-average shooter on long twos this year. The clips below show these two defensive options.
When Philadelphia has the ball, things could get very tough for their offense. Too many of the Sixers’ possessions turn into isolations, and that is something that the Bulls’ defense feasts upon. Chicago ranked second in the league against isolations, allowing only 0.74 points per isolation possession. When the two teams played in the regular season, things got particularly ugly on March 4th; the Bulls allowed a measley 0.4 points per isolation possession in that game. The clips below show some of the Sixers’ struggles in that game.
In this series, fans will get to see a couple of underrated units. Both the Bulls’ offense and the Sixers’ defense are among the best in the league, even if they don’t receive many accolades. A big part of the Bulls offense is their dominant offensive rebounding, which is first in the NBA by a large margin. However, one of the biggest strengths of the Sixers’ defense is their defensive rebounding (second best in the NBA). So what happens when a team that focuses on offensive rebounding faces a team dedicated to defensive rebounding? When these two teams met in the regular season, the Sixers held the Bulls well below their season average offensive rebounding rate in the first two games. In the clips below, observe how none of the Sixers are looking for a transition opportunity. Sometimes they are even double teaming the Bulls’ big men to keep them off the boards.
In their third matchup, the Bulls dominated the offensive boards, rebounding at a rate well above their average. Sometimes making the defense rotate to open shooters leaves the rebounders in bad box-out position. Other times, you just have to credit the Chicago frontcourt for their abilities to hunt down rebounds. As seen below, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and their teammates have the ability to beat their man on the boards regardless of scheme. If Derrick Rose can get the defense moving and helping, that just makes it easier for the Bulls’ frontcourt to get extra possessions.
Although the Sixers should have a tough time scoring against the Bulls’ defense, the same might occur on the other end of the floor. Based on how the Sixers’ defensive strengths match up with the Bulls’ offense, this series could end up closer than expected.