Mike Dunleavy opened his arms and jokingly looked to the heavens when the suggestion about solving the Milwaukee Bucks’ aggressive defense was presented in simple form at Sunday afternoon’s practice.
Take the double-team, move the ball twice and open shots will be plentiful.
“Ahhh, yes. Brilliant,” Dunleavy said. “That, in theory is what we're trying to do. Make that ball move, get it out of the double team and take advantage of 4-on-3 on the weak side.”
Dunleavy is clearly a recipient of crisp ball movement, as he’s shooting a torrid 57 percent from three in the four games this series, only making two two-pointers.
But getting those open shots is clearly easier said than done, as evidence by the Bulls’ comedy of errors, turning the ball over 28 times in their 92-90 Game 4 loss to the Bucks, where a win could’ve enabled the Bulls to get some much-needed rest before the second round.
Trying to force their individual offense led to a lot of the turnovers, as the Bucks want the Bulls to shoot perimeter jumpers, and have the long athletic wings to cover a lot of ground after double-teams.
“Well, in general, we looked at all our turnovers and some were their defense and some were not making the right read,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Usually, if you hold onto it too long or dance with the ball or try a risky pass, it will lead to a problem. Hit the first open man. Be sound with the ball. When we did that, we got good shots.”
How rare are 28 turnovers in a playoff game? It’s the third-highest amount in a playoff game in the last 25 years, trumped only by Indiana’s 33 in 1995 and Miami’s 32 in 1997 — the latter coming against the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.
If you didn’t cry about it, well, you sort of had to laugh. There was probably no snickering in the Bulls’ film session, where Thibodeau put every turnover on display for his team to see, but Dunleavy recognized how comical it could appear.
“When you turn it over 28 times, there's some pretty amazing ways to do it,” he said. “At some point you start becoming creative. It was pretty amazing the way we turned it over. Hopefully we fix it.”
When asked what he saw, Dunleavy voiced what everyone watching on TV witnessed as the Bulls struggled with the fundamental attribute of setting up their offense for good shots.
“Just a little of everything,” Dunleavy said. “One, let's say we want to get it in the post. We've had trouble getting it in there, had turnovers there. Then making that first pass out, had issues there. Then lastly when we get it out are we making the next pass or dribble into the paint and get caught in traffic? That sums it up.”
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The Bulls certainly take their turnover issue seriously, as the Bucks’ high-risk, high-reward style of defense leaves plenty of holes for the Bulls to be effective. When you shoot 49 percent from the field and 56 from 3-point range, it usually births a sense of optimism that if they clean that up, they’ll be fine in Game 5.
After all, before Derrick Rose’s final turnover on the Bulls’ last possession, they were in position to win the game despite the errors. Rose had eight turnovers, while the Bucks have taken Pau Gasol (five turnovers, five field goals in Game 4) out of the series essentially from an offensive standpoint, not allowing the Bulls to run offense through him.
“I thought overall we've rebounded the ball well,” Dunleavy said. “When you turn it over 28 times you won't miss the shots to hit the glass. Our possessions it's either a good look, we're shooting close to 50 percent or it's a turnover. Hopefully like I said we can take care of the ball.”
They know the solution, it’s just up to them to implement their game plan to move onto the next round.