Hoiberg: Defensive stops lead to better pace for Bulls’ offense

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Jonas Valanciunas of the Toronto Raptors is pressured by Jimmy Bulter and Robin Lopez of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center Tuesday night.(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Ask coach Fred Hoiberg for the key to the Bulls’ victory Tuesday against the Raptors, and he’ll quickly point to their pace of play.

Hoiberg highlighted the 20 fast-break points the Bulls scored in their 105-94 win that snapped a three-game skid. Transition basketball simply provides a greater variety of scoring options, Hoiberg said.

But just as important, the Bulls held the Raptors below 50 percent from the field — 45.5 percent (35-for-77) to be exact.

The Bulls beat Toronto for the 11th consecutive time after four games in which they allowed opponents to shoot at least 50 percent from the field — three of them blowout losses.

Hoiberg is hoping to see this type of performance on a more consistent basis.

“The reason we were able to play with pace is because we were getting stops,” Hoiberg said Wednesday. “I thought our defensive energy was the best it’s been in a while.”

The Bulls seem to be realizing that playing at a faster pace provides numerous benefits.

“I think we’re worlds different,” center Robin Lopez said. “That makes everybody a threat on the floor to score.”

And the rousing victory came with Dwyane Wade (wrist), Nikola Mirotic (back spasms) and Paul Zipser (ankle tendinitis) out.

Wade, who has missed the last two games, participated in about half of practice, and Mirotic and Jimmy Butler (heel) were active nearly the entire session.

Wade and Mirotic remain questionable for the game Thursday against the Celtics. Hoiberg said Butler responded well after playing for only the second time in six games against the Raptors. Zipser won’t play until after the All-Star break.

With those three players on the mend, reserves Doug McDermott, Cristiano Felicio and Denzel Valentine were effective in transition.

McDermott led the Bulls with 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting and made two clutch three-pointers, as did Valentine, to help secure the victory.

“I had the hot hand,” said McDermott, who has scored in double figures in six of his last eight games. “I felt really good on both ends. I was able to get rebounds, and I felt that carried over to the offensive end.”

McDermott’s energy filtered through the Bulls’ cast of reserves. Felicio was more active in rolling to the rim, and Valentine found some rhythm from three-point range.

“I think our team is at our best when we can go down and get a quick strike before the defense gets set,” Hoiberg said. “You look at the really good elite shooters, and they get a lot of shots in transition. The only time you really get those is when you get stops. That’s where it starts with our team.”

Follow me on Twitter @JeffArnold_.

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