Latest Headlines

Lackluster rebounding is hurting the Chicago Bulls as 2nd-chance points continue to change games


The final seconds of regulation in the Chicago Bulls’ latest loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers encapsulated a key factor in the Bulls’ 16-21 record.

Third-year forward Patrick Williams lined up to box out Donovan Mitchell on a free throw Monday. Williams held a 6-inch height advantage and an inside edge on Mitchell, yet Mitchell beat Williams to the ball to score the putback layup that pushed the game into overtime. The Cavs went on to win 145-134.

The play might be shrouded in “what-ifs” over a missed lane violation by the officials, but the fact is a player who should be one of the Bulls’ primary rebounders allowed a 6-foot-1 guard to beat him to a putback, costing the Bulls the game. And that’s a continuation of a pattern haunting the undersized Bulls.

Entering Wednesday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets at the United Center, the Bulls had the eighth-lowest average of total rebounds (42.1) and the fourth-lowest of offensive rebounds (8.7) in the league.

The problem isn’t stemming from the team’s big men. Starting center Nikola Vučević is ninth in the league in rebounds (10.5 per game) and fifth in defensive rebounds (8.4). Backup center Andre Drummond has averaged more rebounds per 36 minutes (18.1) than at any point in his career, which has been based on rim protection.

Vučević believes the realignment of the game around the 3-point line puts less of an impetus on centers to anchor a team’s rebounding success.

“It’s an adjustment. There’s way more 3s nowadays and a lot of rebounds are long,” Vučević said. “Everybody’s so used to just the big man getting the most rebounds. Now you’ve got to control that area where the ball might bounce, the elbow, the top of the key.”

READ MORE:  Reside Updates | Ukraine launches probe about mine death

The lack of rebounding intensity began to show up more in the Bulls’ December results. After starting the season with a top-15 defense, the Bulls’ recent tumble to a bottom-10 defensive rating is largely due to second-chance points.

The Bulls allowed 13.8 second-chance points per game in December — the 11th-highest average in the league — and gave up 24 in Monday’s loss to the Cavaliers. Those second-chance opportunities deflate energy on both sides of the court.

“We see how it feels when teams get offensive rebounds against us,” Williams said. “We’ll have played 24 seconds of good defense and then let them get the offensive rebound. It’s just draining.”

The challenge for the Bulls around the rim lies partially in their size disparity with opponents. As an undersized team, Vučević feels the Bulls often get into mismatches after defensive switches.

This requires the Bulls to be more purposeful with their positioning in help defense to create better angles to secure rebounds.

“We’re not a big team,” Vučević said. “Sometimes if a big ends up on a small, in help or rotation, it’s hard. There’s not a lot those guys can do there. … We’ve just got to get in the right spots and be willing to put in that extra effort. It’s not always easy.”

Even before his gaffe against the Cavs on Monday, it was clear Williams was one of the main Bulls players who needs to improve around the rim. He’s averaging only four rebounds per game, placing him behind Vučević, Drummond, DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.

READ MORE:  Pac-12 football: The Hotline’s submit-spring follow predictions for the 2022 division races

Williams knows he needs to do more to prevent offensive rebounds. But rather than ascribing the Bulls’ lackluster rebounding to technique or footwork, he believes the issue for himself and his teammates comes down to effort.

Or as he put it: “Just go get it.”

“There isn’t really a technical way to box out or do this, do that,” Williams said. “It’s just when a ball goes off the rim, who wants it more? Who’s going to come down with it? Obviously we’re in scramble mode and a lot of times we’ve got guards boxing out bigs, but a lot of time it just comes down to who wants it more.”

()

Related Articles

Back to top button