Blueprints, conspiracy theories and what lies ahead for Bulls

Could there be a “blueprint” again for how to force the Bulls’ offense into a limp? The Lakers definitely adjusted from their Sunday loss in Los Angeles.

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Javonte Green

The loss to the Lakers on Wednesday came at a bad time for the Bulls, and could have hampered their chances to move up in the seedings.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Last season, Tristan Thompson called it the blueprint.

Sounding part-NBA analyst, part-conspiracy theorist, the backup center the Bulls rented for the second half of the 2021-22 season was convinced that the Grizzlies had figured out the best way to attack the Bulls’ offense during their 116-110 victory on Feb. 26, 2022, putting it on film for all to see.

More than a year later, it’s really not a blueprint as much as common sense.

The Lakers showed that in their 121-110 victory Wednesday.

“They adjusted to doubling pretty much everything,’’ Zach LaVine said. “It slowed us up. I think we played really slow.

‘‘They put us on our heels early. . . . They were doubling me at halfcourt. I was trying to get off of [the ball]. Give the credit to the defense.’’

The game plan limited LaVine to 16 points on 8-for-14 shooting, including 0-for-2 from three-point range, and DeMar DeRozan to 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting.

That duo, especially LaVine, had given the Lakers fits three days earlier in Los Angeles. LaVine and DeRozan combined for four three-pointers, and LaVine scored a game-high 32.

So the Lakers adjusted and blitzed LaVine and DeRozan with double-teams whenever they had the ball, forcing someone else to beat them.

The flaw in that scheme is that it can leave the corner three open, but the Lakers picked a great night to pull it off. Alex Caruso went 1-for-3 from long range, with two attempts coming from the corner. Patrick Beverley went 0-for-5 from three-point range, with three attempts from the corners. And Patrick Williams went 0-for-5 from long distance, missing three from the corners.

Is it a sustainable game plan for the opponents remaining on the Bulls’ schedule? Not really. Only the Grizzlies and Bucks — if Milwaukee is even playing its starters at that point — have the personnel to blitz the Bulls at the top of the arc with physicality, the defensive acumen to rotate properly and a rim protector to clean up any breakdowns.

The Bulls, however, should be nervous about the team they’re currently lined up to face in the first play-in game. The Raptors took two of three from them this season — with both victories coming in Toronto — and sit in the No. 9 spot. They would host the Bulls in a play-in game, and they have the personnel to cause some issues.

That makes the back-to-back losses the Bulls just suffered sting even more.

The Bulls sit two games behind the Raptors and Hawks; all three teams have six regular-season games left.

The Raptors have by far the toughest road, and a strange one, playing in Philadelphia, back-to-back games in Charlotte, back-to-back games in Boston, then back home for Milwaukee. It’s the third-hardest remaining schedule in the NBA, but it comes with an asterisk.

The Bucks could sit their top players in the finale, and the Celtics could do the same in the second-to-last game if they have the No. 2 seed locked up by then.

If the Bulls were hoping to catch Atlanta, they at least play the Hawks at the United Center on Tuesday. But Atlanta also gets the slumping Mavericks, the Wizards and the Celtics, who could be in rest mode, in the finale.

“I just want to play a good brand of basketball, and wherever we fall, we fall,’’ Beverley said. “We’re prepared for anything.’’

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