This is the steaming pile I get to analyze for my first video breakdown of the new year? Even with the return of their “best player” (scare quotes intentional) Andrea Bargnani, the Raptors were outworked and outclassed — only this time, it was the Bulls’ second unit that inflicted the most damage during a dominant second quarter. Not only did they outscore the Raptors 30-16 in the quarter, they also had an 18-6 advantage in points in the paint. That grew into a 58-38 advantage by the end of the game — coincidentally the same margin as the final score.
Whereas Carlos Boozer did the most damage in the previous meeting between these two teams, it was Boozer’s backup, Taj Gibson, who wreaked havoc with 16 points and 14 rebounds in just 25 minutes. Boozer and Gibson combined for nine offensive rebounds, which was one more than the Raptors grabbed as a team. The primary differentiator of these two teams isn’t rebounding, however, it’s defence. The Bulls have a renowned defensive specialist as their coach, and the Raptors quite evidently do not.
Since the second quarter was when the Bulls really asserted their dominance, I’ve picked three examples of great defence by the Bulls that stymied the Raptors in that quarter. Here we see that Raptors unable to penetrate the Bulls’ zone defence, leading to Bargnani forcing up an awkward mid-ranger — with 10 seconds still on the shot clock, I should note.
Next, we have some excellent help defence that forced a DeMar DeRozan turnover. When Amir Johnson sets a pick on Kyle Korver, Carlos Boozer switches over to keep DeRozan from driving the lane and then C.J. Watson (an extremely underrated ballhawk who averages 2.2 steals per 36 minutes) leaves Jerryd Bayless to swipe the ball. This leads to a two-on-one break and an easy Bulls basket.
Finally, let’s admire the Bulls’ transition defence on this attempted Leandro Barbosa fast break. See how they quickly seal him off with three defenders and force him to pull up into a set offence.
Nothing too fancy about any of these plays, it’s just smart defence by motivated, well-coached players. Tom Thibodeau (the “Th” is apparently pronounced as in “thumb”) developed a reputation as a defensive guru as an assistant in Boston and we can see that the rep was no joke — the Bulls are second in the league in Defensive Rating behind his old Celtics team.
If there was one Raptors highlight that stood out for me, it was this awesome block by Amir Johnson on Taj Gibson. Note how gingerly he emerges from behind the basket after the block — there’s no question his back is still bothering him but he’s still bringing that full Amir effort.