When did things start to change?
Chicago Sun-times columnist Rick Telander suggested that he resembles a big rusty anchor. The person of note is one Zaza Pachulia, starting center for the Milwaukee Bucks. Blog co-conspirator A.J. suggested that up to game two of the NBA playoff series between the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks the Bulls were more or less having their way.
Only after an incident during game two when Zaza hit Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic’ in the back of the head only to follow later with another elbow to the head during a scrum did this series actually become a series.
Of course this could be a bit of a stretch to suggest that this incident was the catalyst for a Milwaukee resurgence but after it happened the Bucks took the Bulls to triple overtime and then defeated them twice prior to game six scheduled for Thursday night in Milwaukee.
During the Buck victories Zaza Pachulia could be clearly seen literally taking the ball right out of the hands of Bulls players after rebounds.
The Bulls have tough players I mean Derrick Rose is from Chicago’s Englewood community and others like Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler back down from no one.
But it wasn’t until game three where 161 pound back up point guard Aaron Brooks landed a punch in the chest of Bucks guard Jarryd Bayless that I was reminded that he may have been the first Bulls player since former center Bill Cartwright to fire off a retaliatory foul for his team.
Now a team does not have to be well versed in the art of hand to hand combat to win a championship but it was interesting to see Nikola Mirotic’ approach Aaron after the punch to offer comfort, support and probably thanks.
Intimidation is and has always been a part of sport and teams normally address it by maintaining focus and execution however the Bulls now have a hungry, well coached and motivated team in their way.
The Answer ?
The answer is no, the Bulls are not a soft team . They have historically been a defensive oriented team even during the halcyon years of Micheal and Scottie.
These Bulls are known for a physical brand of defense which includes fighting aggressively through screens and chucking cutters coming through the lane.
What may be lacking is the need for time spent together during this injury ravaged season. That is one of the reasons Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau kept stressing the need for increased practice time.
Injuries to key players have played a part in inhibiting the progress needed to improve defensively.
The team, as it currently stands is engaged in a bit of a dog fight with a young, long, athletic and suddenly awake Milwaukee Bucks team and the Bulls may have to take advantage of their experience by controlling game tempo and by exploiting their size advantage.
In the meantime:
Bucks guard Middleton is a deadly shooter, stay home on defense !
Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo must be kept out of the lane as he and point guard Micheal Carter Williams are poor outside shooters. Play off of them and step up high to cut off dribble penetration when they drive.
Center Zaza ( the aforementioned anchor) Pachulia is not a shot blocker and should be challenged off the drive…If you dare.
And finally the Bulls might want to send in a big man to follow Rose or Brooks as they attack the lane. Drive and dish opportunities along with lob passes should result.
The Bucks collapse their entire defense at the first inkling of dribble penetration. The Bulls guards should pass out to shooters where the resulting second or third pass rotations should lead to wide open shots.
Next up? The Cavaliers and Vader.