Wednesday, January 04, 2012

HoopSpeak: Mason: Chicago goes to the half court trap to trip up the Hawks

Friend of the blog, Beckley Mason, on the turning point of the game:
Judging by the Atlanta Hawks' defensive energy and focus, you wouldn’t have guessed they were on the second game in a brutal back to back that began with the Heat. But with 7 minutes left in the third, Atlanta was in absolute control of the Chicago Bulls. The offense wasn’t exactly humming, but certainly grinding. Snappy ball-movement and running Joe Johnson in swooping circles around a series of screeners was giving the Bulls fits. When the Bulls’ aggressive big men hedged to Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford quickly slipped back door for alley-oops.

When a team is getting pounded, sage commentators intone that the team “needs to change something.” Really, sometimes a team only needs to make open shots, or take better care of the ball. Certainly either would have helped the Bulls, but it wasn’t just execution–the Hawks were taking it to them. They were beating them to loose balls, disrupting the Bulls already choppy offense and abusing the Bulls defensive philosophy with clever reads.

The Bulls won 61 games last season, and will win a whole bunch this year because night in and night out, they simply play harder and more aggressively than their competition.

So in an apparent effort to reclaim that identity, coach Tom Thibodeau unleashed a half court trap in the second half that dramatically shifted the flow of the game. With all those long and fast players, the Bulls second unit–which often includes Luol Deng– is a near perfect group for trapping.

But the Bulls debuted the trap with Carlos Boozer, of all people, on top. That’s because the goal wasn’t to get deflections and steals, but to divert the Hawks theretofore flowing offense into channels unaccustomed to handle the volume of offensive responsibility, and to burn precious seconds off the clock before the Hawks could initiate their offense.
Click through for video and further analysis.

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