Bulls get defensive, look dominant on that side of the ball
In rolling the Pelicans on Friday, the Bulls again used an athletic style of defense to wreak havoc all over the floor. Can that style become their MO?
It’s pretty simple, how the Heat’s defense is going to work this season.
Bring a helmet, a mouth guard and a roll of yellow caution tape because they’re going to make it a street fight.
The Knicks? A similar mentality in the physicality department but also full attention to the details on that side of the floor thanks to the brilliant defensive mind of coach Tom Thibodeau.
Even the defending champion Bucks have a signature defensive style, and it starts with the length of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
So how can the Bulls factor in that landscape of the Eastern Conference on the defensive end?
As the second game of the preseason continued to show Friday, they’re carving out their own niche.
In destroying the Pelicans 121-85, the offense was effortless, but the defense again surprised, looking relentless.
The Bulls (2-0) went into halftime up 63-38 and had 11 steals. By the time they went up 84-53 in the third quarter, they had 25 points off turnovers.
They aren’t tall, they aren’t Miami physical, but they are athletic with quick hands and quicker feet. And while there’s still tons of work to go, there is a formula starting to come together.
“I mean, we want to be physical, and we have to have some type of physicality, but that’s not our makeup,’’ guard Zach LaVine said of the style the Bulls are embracing. “We are a bunch of athletes, though. We’re going to try to get out in transition. We want to play with that type of style of play.
“We’re all watching each other’s back out there, trying to fly around. Hopefully that will be our MO. But we will have to help each other out, gang-rebound because we are a bit smaller.’’
The additions of Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan have obviously helped in the athleticism department, but LaVine being a willing defender off his Olympic experience will be huge, as well as the tough-guy mentality Alex Caruso brings off the bench.
Then factor in more playing time for Javonte Green, Troy Brown Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr., and coach Billy Donovan will have a lot of options throughout the season.
“The one thing I do feel about the group is I feel we do have really good length,’’ Donovan said. “Lonzo is a long player, Zach has really good length, DeMar has length and Javonte has length.’’
Donovan did go out of his way to distinguish the difference between overall size of his team and length, and reiterated it had to be a team effort for this to hold up all season long.
Why it does feel like it has staying power, however, is the Greens, Balls, LaVines and DeRozans all have very similar size. They can all switch, then use that athleticism to poke at balls or get hands on passes.
The Cavs saw that on Tuesday, and the Pelicans were just the latest victims.
“We don’t have a lot of bigs on our team,’’ Brown said. “And so our thing is, our backcourt guys have to kinda make up for that.
“We got a lot of guys that can move their feet. And so I feel like for us, we make that a priority night in, night out. And we understand if we play defense, we can get out and run, and that’s something that Coach has really been instilling in us.’’
That transition factored in LaVine finishing with 21 points, and Ball chipping in with 19.
“Our aggressiveness on the defensive end,’’ Nikola Vucevic said of the defensive key so far.
“Playing together for only two games now, it’s been pretty good.’’