The Chicago Bulls went into Cleveland and stole Game 1 from the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday with a balanced offensive attack that featured a lot of ball movement and a host of open jumpers. Derrick Rose spearheaded the attack with 25 points in the 99-92 victory, but the Bulls' point got plenty of help, something that didn't happen when Chicago lost to LeBron James' Miami Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.
Mike Dunleavy helped kick off the Bulls' efficient offensive night with 13 first-quarter points, mostly on open jumpers. Jimmy Butler scored 20 points and hit some clutch shots late. Then, there was Pau Gasol, who used a big third quarter to finish with 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting.
Gasol scored 13 points in the third quarter on 6-of-8 shooting, with a bunch of those points coming off pick-and-pop mid-range jumpers. The Cavaliers had little answer for the Rose/Gasol pick-and-roll in the third quarter, so the Bulls smartly went to it time and time again to help extend their lead back to 15 points after Cleveland erased their initial lead.
Gasol shot 8-of-13 from outside the paint in the game, and the majority of those shots were open:
Bulls were 22-of-26 on open jumpers in half court last night, Pau Gasol was 8-of-8 says @ESPNStatsInfo— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 5, 2015
Gasol was 8-of-9 on uncontested shots and the Bulls were 25-of-41 (61 percent) as a team, per SportVU. That seems like an unsustainable clip, but look at how open he is:
On the very next possession, the Bulls ran another Rose/Gasol pick-and-roll to get another open jumper:
Mid-range jumpers are typically the most inefficient shots in the game, but not for Gasol, especially when they're wide open. That made this quote from Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert all the more curious:
Shumpert on Pau "We think we can do a better job than letting Pau have that much space. We tested him & he showed us he can knock that down"— Chris Fedor (@ChrisFedor) May 5, 2015
A simple look at a shot chart should have dissuaded Cleveland from wanting to test Gasol on those shots:
Leaving Gasol open at the elbows or the top of the key is basically a death knell. Furthermore, Gasol shot better than 49 percent on catch-and-shoot two-pointers in the regular season and 52 percent on wide open (closest defender is more than 6 feet away) shots over 10 feet in the regular season, per SportVU. Those marks are at a whopping 64 percent and 77 percent in the postseason, respectively.
The Cavaliers will surely make adjustments on these pick-and-rolls (head coach David Blatt claims they did already), but that may just open up other opportunities for the Bulls' offense. That could mean easier drives to the basket for Rose or more open looks on the opposite side for players like Butler and Dunleavy.
This advanced offensive weaponry is what makes this version of the Bulls more dangerous than previous iterations. There was still a bit too much hero ball down the stretch of Game 1 and we saw Chicago struggle at times against the elite defense of the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Bulls have the ability to be a dynamic offensive team. Considering the Cavaliers' defense is nothing to write home about, that looms large in this series.
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