Defensive Discipline is the Bulls’ Difference

Tommy Dee

Great read today from Jim Cavan of the Times about the Knicks’ ability to value possessions and how that execution has allowed for them to become one of the top offensive teams in the NBA statistically. We’ve pointed out that having the double point set up with Felton and Kidd has been a major reason for this. The Knicks get great ball movement and if they miss a long shot they have Batman Chandler volley balling the ball back out.

Cue last night’s game. How many times have we seen ball movement lead to a shot fake from Steve Novak or Jason Kidd causing the closing defender to fly by in the air, thus leading to an even better look at the basket?

The answer is many.

The Bulls are a disciplined defense. When you teach discipline on defense you are likely to have closing defenders with a hand up and staying on their feet. Many coaches teach the “contest and fly” which is a run-out close followed by a release downcourt. If the team collects the rebound they are quickly in transition with a wide open man in the front court.

The Bulls are not one of these teams. They want to secure the rebound and make sure that they stay on their feet in the face of shooters (see video).

This posed a problem for Steve Novak and Jason Kidd, particularly Novak who has registered just 1 FG in 2 games against the Bulls.

That’s staggering.

The Knicks moved the ball quite well last night, the Bulls just did a better job defending the court laterally on closeouts.

The solution? Ironically, it’s having a great post player to force double teams and looking for cutters and skip passes in an attempt to make close outs quicker and to have to travel at a longer distance. If you run a cutting player to the basket, it forces a rotating defender to have to communicate to a bigger player with slower feet and reaction time. Another way is to screen closing out defenders out of post action, as a good rotation defense has many zone principles.