The NBA playoffs are about adjustments, from game-to-game and from series-to-series. The teams best able to take away their opponent’s strengths and exploit their weaknesses generally win a series.
They say the greatest lessons are learned after a loss, and if that’s true, the Chicago Bulls received an Ivy League-caliber education in the Game 1 dismantling courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets. There is no doubt that the Bulls’ coaching staff has plenty of film to watch and strategy (strategies?) to adjust.
But, what about the Nets?
While it does feel a bit nit-picky to talk about adjustments after a blowout victory, the Nets will undoubtedly see a more motivated Bulls team in Game 2, meaning just resting on their Game 1 laurels could present problems.
Let’s breakdown two adjustments the Nets can make for Game 2.
Taking Advantage of Mismatches:
If you were to take issue with any of the Nets starters from Game 1, Joe Johnson’s play was least desirable. At first glance, Johnson’s 7-13 shooting for 16 points were in line with his season averages, but Johnson’s -1 /- was the only Nets starter not in double figures.
Admittedly, as the Nets pulled away and the Deron Williams/Brook Lopez combo proved unstoppable, Johnson shifted into more of a “game management” role: shooting when open and not forcing anything, which, when the other two are rolling the way they were, is a great style for Johnson to slip into.
But, early on the Nets tried to involve Johnson and the results were mixed. Chicago began the first quarter switching any Williams/Johnson screen, leading to mismatches where Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich was guarding Johnson.
When the Nets looked to exploit this, the Bulls did a great job of flooding the ball side, zoning up that entire are of the court, notice below.
As Johnson is isolated on the wing, all five Bulls defenders zone up the paint with their chests to the ball. This over-aggressiveness on the ball side (a staple of Tom Thibodeau’s defense) leaves the Bulls especially vulnerable on the weakside. In this case its Williams and Gerald Wallace with a lot http://www.phpaide.com/?langue=fr&id=11 of space, opposite the ball on the perimeter.
As these situations continue to arise in this series, Johnson needs to be a willing passer and kick passes out to those open wings. From there, the Nets need to attack those long closeout situations the Bulls will be in, either by three-point shot or by driving by a closing Bulls defender.
If Deron Williams’ stellar play continues, I’d expect to see the Bulls to start using bigger, longer defenders such as Jimmy Butler or Luol Deng on him more, meaning Johnson can expect more of these post-up situations. How the Nets take advantage can determine success.
One of the Bulls’ few bright spots was the play of forward Carlos Boozer. Boozer’s 25 points came on an efficient 20 shots, with 14 of those points coming inside the paint. He was one of the few players the Nets had consistent issues guarding in Game 1.
One way to combat this would be making Boozer work harder for his post position. Boozer continually managed to get deep seals with one, sometimes even two feet in the paint before receiving the ball. Now, it should be said that battling Boozer is no easy task. At 6’9” and 266 lbs, Boozer is rock solid and built like a house. He’s able to carve out space well and plays in a wide stance which helps him not give that space up. Despite this impressive physique and disposition, however, Boozer rarely had to use it to establish favorable post position. Boozer got a lot of his post catches simply off running the floor in transition – having not been met by any Net defender, Boozer simply ran to a block and set up shop.
Notice in the video above how deep Boozer caught the pass and the little resistance he faced getting to his sweet spot. Catches that deep already put the defense at a disadvantage and forced the Nets to have to collapse opening up driving lanes and shooting angles for the rest of the Bulls.
Battling Boozer earlier in a possession could make his post catch come just a foot or two further from the basket than he was previously getting.
They say, football is a game of inches, but basketball — played on a smaller court — is a game of centimeters. Being even a foot further from the hoop could impact the Nets defense and change Boozer’s effectiveness.