Chicago’s Luck Beats Toronto’s Strategy

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The Bulls and Raptors faced off in a surprisingly close game on Saturday ngiht.  Chicago allowed a wide open look at a game winning shot in regulation and had their own game winning shot blocked in overtime, yet they somehow won.  Let’s take a look at how it all went down.

Andrea Bargnani sets a screen for Gary Forbes, who is cutting towards the basket.  The Bulls stick with their assignments, so Bargnani’s man, Taj Gibson, is forced to help defend Forbes on the cut to the hoop.  Luol Deng’s positioning defending the inbounder makes an interior pass difficult but not impossible.

As Forbes curls around the screen, Bargnani pops out to the perimeter.  Forbes does a great job of running right into Gibson to prevent him from recovering to Bargnani.

Bargnani has an open look at the basket, but the shot doesn’t fall.  The full play is below.

At the end of overtime, the Bulls needed a basket to win.  Deng flashes to receive the ball, and C.J. Watson sprints to receive the return handoff, using Deng as a screen.  The Raptors are switching everything on this play, and James Johnson picks up Watson as he passes Deng.  The Raptors do a great job defending the initial action to get Watson some space; it’s almost like Toronto has seen this before.

Switching is a great strategy for a situation like this.  Any screens won’t work as intended, and there is not enough time for the offense to exploit any potential mismatches that result from the switches.  This time, however, the switch is what kills the Raptors.  After the Deng-Watson exchange, Jose Calderon is now matched up with the much taller Deng and giving up inside position.

Johnson plays great defense and blocks Watson’s shot, but as luck would have it, the ball falls right into Deng’s hands for the putback and win. The full play is below.

All things considered, this is the best result for the Raptors.  They ran a great play to get a wide open shot for the win in regulation, but it rimmed out.  They played great defense in overtime, but the ball was deflected to the wrong spot.  The Raptors had some great end-of-game play, but they still get to improve their draft position.

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