The Inside Track: Playoff Keys for the Chicago Bulls to Win

Billy Donovan is paid millions of dollars a year to coach the Chicago Bulls. I am not paid anything to watch the Bulls play. However, I seem to see things that Billy doesn’t.

There are a few things that became apparent in the last few weeks of the regular NBA season this year. For one thing, the top teams in the league have learned that the Bulls can’t defend the pick-and-roll. The Bulls will be in a game, neck and neck with the opposition, and then the opponent switches to a pick-and-roll offense and end up wiping the floor with our team.

The Bulls simply have to adapt their defense. If they can’t come up with a way to defend the pick-and-roll, they are going to make a quick post-season departure.

Another thing that top teams have exposed about the Bulls in the latter portion of the season is that if you double team Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan and take away their midrange game, the rest of the Bulls don’t know how to pick up the slack.

From the cheap seats, it appears that when you double team Zach and DeMar, the Bulls are left with two options – shoot the three or play the inside game. The Bulls, almost exclusively, have been opting for the three-point shot and it has not been falling.

As their opponents drop baskets from all over the court, the Bulls seem afraid to go inside. The Bulls acquired former All-Star center Nikola Vucevic from the Orlando Magic last season to give them a new dimension. He’s a big body with an okay outside shot.

The problem is that Vooch would rather hang out by the three-point line than battle in the paint. I get it, down by the basket is where the big boys play. It is violent and your body takes a beating.

Of course, Vooch would rather stay on the outside where his body isn’t constantly taking punishment. However, he is paid millions of dollars to do what is necessary to win games. Playing in the paint will win games.

Vooch himself has proven this at various times in the year. When he is willing to subject his body to abuse in the paint, the Bulls are practically unstoppable. He just has to be willing to go to war.

Vooch isn’t the only one taking ill-advised three-point shots. In the early part of the season, the Bulls were deadly from behind the arc. Lonzo Ball, LaVine, Coby White, and Ayo Dosunmu all have some three-point range and showed it as the Bulls played their way to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Like many teams, the Bulls can be shaky from the outside at times. When that happens, the Bulls need to adapt and try something different. In the latter half of the 2021-22 season, though, by staying dedicated to outside shots that aren’t falling the Bulls have repeated dug themselves into holes that they can’t get out of.

Doing the same thing and expecting different results is a commonplace definition of a lack of sanity. I love the Bulls and don’t want to insinuate that the players or coaching staff are crazy. But they’re not seeing the big picture.

As other contenders in the NBA have adapted their game to the ebb and flow of the action, Donovan and his players seem content to just keep firing threes, even when they aren’t falling. If that doesn’t change, the Bulls are going to have an early exit from the playoffs.

However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Donovan showed earlier in the season that he’s capable of coaching a champion-caliber team. They just have to stop doing what’s easy and start doing what’s necessary to win games – no matter how hard.

There has been a lot of talk that the Bulls are in a growing process and should just be happy to have made the playoffs for the first time since 2017. I’m not always a “we should just be happy” type of guy. I like to see players live up to their potential.

You don’t have to be the number one seed in the playoff brackets to win a championship. The Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995 from the sixth position in the standings. It can be done.

Can the Bulls win a championship this year? Anything is possible. Why not at least try? If the three ball isn’t falling, let’s play inside the paint. It works.

I will love my Chicago Bulls whether they win or lose, but given the choice – I would prefer they win.

Peace. Love. Trust.

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