Bulls’ offense has suddenly gotten stagnant; are there any realistic solutions?
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The defensive blueprint is out there, and every foe knows it.
The Bulls are inexperienced to begin with, but injuries to starters Lauri Markkanen (right elbow), Kris Dunn (left knee) and Bobby Portis (right knee) have left them undermanned, as well.
As a result, coach Fred Hoiberg’s “space and pace’’ offense has turned into “Zach and a prayer.’’
Teams are throwing everything at guard Zach LaVine, the new face of the organization, when the ball is in his hands. That was evident the last few weeks, and again on Wednesday in Boston. The Celtics sent two defenders at LaVine on every pick-and-roll, forcing another Bull to make a play or hit a shot.
The Bulls’ 111-82 loss exposed the fact that not much help was available.
“I think I was making the right plays, and I think we’ve got to live with that,’’ LaVine said. “I trust these guys more than anything, so I’m going to do what I have to do. I’m going to draw two or three defenders, kick it out to the corners and try to look to be aggressive when I can.’’
The Bulls have been running a high screen with LaVine and rookie big man Wendell Carter Jr. in which LaVine splits the double-team and attacks or makes the pocket pass to the rolling Carter.
Carter then has the option to attack the rim or find the cutter from the corner off the defender’s rotation. Hoiberg also likes to leave a three-point shooter at the backside corner as another out.
The set has had some success, especially in the victory against the Cavaliers when Carter found a cutting Jabari Parker several times, earning LaVine the hockey assist.
But against the Celtics, who are savvy when it comes to rotations and help, the Bulls’ options were limited.
So Hoiberg — hired for his offensive mind — has to adjust to the adjustment, short-handed or not.
“It’s something where we’re trying to get our movement stuff in there, but in order to do that, you know our offensive energy at times almost shuts down as much as our defensive energy,’’ Hoiberg said. “We’re not getting down the floor; we’ve got two guys taking the ball out of bounds. It’s about doing the right thing, doing your job, and when times get tough, we really struggle to get through those times.
“We’ll keep working on it. That’s all we can do and try to get into a rhythm.’’
Hoiberg believes more cutting and movement will eventually create more scoring possibilities, but that also means having the right mix of players on the floor.
Point guard Ryan Arcidiacono moved ahead of Cameron Payne in the starting lineup because he’s in constant motion.
But he’s not the scorer Dunn is, especially attacking the paint, so Hoiberg is hamstrung.
“We’ve just got to keep it moving,’’ Arcidiacono said. “We try to play fast, but in the halfcourt, we’ve got to keep zipping the ball around, make the defense play first, second, third side. We have to get to the point where even if we feel like we have an open look, pass it off for the better look. We have to learn how to play with a lead.’’
That’s a lot to ask of this group, and Hoiberg is realizing that every game.