Pacers vs. Bulls Spiderwebs - Game 4

As a supplement to the playoff game recaps, we’re going to post Synergy “spiderwebs.” This will show the offensive distribution in plays and points for each team. The data is provided by the fantastic site mySynergySports. Hopefully, it will help us understand each team’s approach, as well as what worked and what didn’t.

Click here for others in the series.

Bulls Offense

I’d described the spiderwebs from Game 3 as “funky,” but maybe “revealing” would have been more accurate for Chicago’s offense — and what the Pacers defense has done to it.  In addition to the Game 4 spiderweb above, let’s take a look at some other visuals, focusing on the PnR Ball Handler in each.

First, the full year for Chicago’s offense:

Now, the first two games played in the United Center:

In those first two games in Chicago, the Bulls scored an average of almost 112 points per 100 possessions.  However, it can (and should) be parsed down even further.  In Game 1, the Bulls scored a ridiculous 123 per 100 – and the spiderweb looked like this:

Game 2 was a different story.  After experimenting with Paul George on Derrick Rose in the second half of Game 1, the Pacers committed to it fully.  The Bulls still won, but their offensive efficiency dropped to 102 per 100.  The spiderweb for Game 2:

You see that in Game 1, the Bulls were both effective and efficient in using the PnR Ball Handler, averaging 1.20 PPP.  In Game 2, they ran more plays (20 vs. 15), but were less efficient, scoring only 0.50 PPP.  Now look at what happened when the series move to Indy:

In two games at Conseco Fieldhouse, the Pacers’ defense has completely choked off Chicago’s use of the PnR Ball Handler.  The Bulls have only been able to finish this 22 times, and in those 22 times, only scored five (5) points, or 0.23 PPP.  Couple that with the reduced damage by the Bulls on their offensive glass (31% in Indy vs. 45% in Chicago), and the Pacers have been able to hold the Bulls Offense to less than a point per possession.

In the three games since the Paul George adjustment, the Bulls offense has been able to score only 100.5 points per 100 possessions.  And it’s in these three games resides several pieces of damning evidence against the Chicago Bulls, and that evidence makes it almost impossible for me to take the Bulls seriously as title contenders this year.

  • Danny Granger was right …when he said, “Chicago, they go as Derrick Rose goes.” If you make a concerted effort to stop Derrick Rose, you have a better chance to beat them.”  With Derrick Rose on the floor in this series, the Bulls post an offensive efficiency of 106.  With Derrick Rose on the bench, it’s less than 84.  In a series where the total point differential is only 10 points, the Bulls are +20 with Rose on the floor.
  • Danny Granger was right … when he said, “Boston’s a different monster. They don’t have the best record in the East, but they won championships; they know how to do it. They have four, five guys you have to worry about.”  It has become readily apparent that this Chicago Bulls team is just not ready to enforce their claim on being the best team in either the East or the Association.  They have been caught up in silly things (specifically, Jeff Foster), and they seemingly keep waiting for the easy series that everyone (including me) expected.  The point where this became obvious was in the third quarter of Game 2.  After Darren Collison went down with an ankle sprain late in the second quarter, the Bulls had gone on a 23-7 run and led the Pacers 59-52.  It’s at this point that a team like the Celtics would have broken a team like the Pacers.  It’s when Chicago could have – and should have – broken Indiana.  Instead, they let up, and Chicago hasn’t led by as many as seven points since.  And by doing that, the Bulls have shown the rest of the East how to shut them down.
  • Carlos Boozer is a major source of concern. Boozer needs to be a reliable and dangerous second option for Chicago, and he’s been anything but.  In his 136 minutes, he’s posted a miserable .375 eFG% and a TS% of only .433 on his way to a meager 12 points per game.  His turnover percentage is over 20, and it’s impossible to class his performance as anything kinder than disappointing.
  • Tom Thibodeau has not adjusted well … or possibly, at all.  When Thibodeau was hired last summer, I had made a tweet asking if anyone besides me thought that Thibs might fail spectacularly.  At the time, I was caught up in watching another high-functioning assistant (Mike Brown) fail, and I wondered if Thibodeau was at risk because he was so singularly associated with his defensive specialty.  I was largely proven wrong over the course of the season, but the playoffs have not been his finest hour.  After Vogel made his adjustment to defend Rose, Thibodeau responded with…nothing.  Chicago’s offense – outside of Derrick Rose carving up the defense – consists largely of players like Deng, Korver, and Bogans hitting open threes or high degree of difficulty long twos.  Not exactly a time-tested recipe for success in the playoffs.

Chicago’s defense is still very strong, and both Boston (offense) and Miami (inside game) are flawed teams, so it’s still possible that they could  get out of the East.  And, as always, match ups can make a world of difference – it’s unclear as to whether anyone else can use the Pacers’ blueprint.

But…right now…the 2010-2011 Chicago Bulls look far too one-dimensional and flawed to my eyes for me to think of them as contenders for a title.

For reference, here is the series-to-date spiderweb for the Chicago Offense.

Pacers Offense

While the Bulls’ spiderwebs show a distinct pattern over the course of the series, the ones for the Pacers show almost none, and that fits pretty well with the fact that they don’t really have an “offense” installed.

Over the course of this series, the Pacers have managed only 103.6 points per 100.  However, if you take out Game 1 — which featured a fluky Pacer shooting performance — that drops to 98.7.

Their half-court offense has been largely ineffective.  The Pacers have scored 62 points on 50 plays in transition, or 1.24 PPP.  In their 383 plays in the half court, they’ve managed on 0.84 PPP.  If you remove the seldom-used Cuts and Screens that are the last remnants of their old motion offense, it drops to 0.77 PPP.

The Pacers have been competitive in this series — and remain alive — because of success at the defensive end.  They are down 3-1, because they cannot consistently generate offense.  Truth be told, if not for the relatively impressive job Danny Granger has done of stepping up his performance (22 ppg, 52.0% eFG%, 24.1 PER vs. regular season figures of 20.5, 48.7%, and 17.8), this series would have been comfortably won by Chicago, in spite of the Pacer defensive performance.

In any case, I’ll once again leave you with the series-to-date spiderwebs for the Pacer Offense.

Please see Jared’s recap for a full discussion of Game 4.

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