Have Chicago Bulls finally figured out how to play 'Hoiball'?
Maybe it's as simple as this: It took the Bulls five months to learn how to play “Hoiball.”
That's the nickname given to the up-tempo, high-scoring offense the Bulls were supposed to run during Hoiberg's first season as head coach.
The offense looked awful early in the season, had its moments in the middle and has come to fruition in the last three games. Finally. Maybe.
The way things have gone for the Bulls, it's tough to make any declarations in ink. The next difficult opponent (such as Atlanta on Friday) or lineup change could turn everything amiss.
Here's one bit of good news, though: During the current three-game winning streak, the Bulls have averaged 29.3 assists. For comparison's sake, Golden State leads the NBA in assists with 29.0 per game. The Bulls have dished out 32, 30 and 26 in the three wins. For the season, they are averaging 22.1, which ranks 14th in the league.
“You can tell (Hoiberg) is excited with the way things are going,” Doug McDermott said after Wednesday's 109-104 win over Washington. “It's unselfish, everyone's really benefiting from it, so it's great to see.”
Push the tempo, move the ball side-to-side and play unselfishly. It sounds simple, but the Bulls have struggled to execute the plan. After beating Washington, players had some interesting insight into how Hoiberg's system works.
“We've just kept it a lot more simple on offense,” McDermott said. “He's not even really calling plays; we're flowing into stuff, flowing into sets to get our shooters out to the corners quicker and get our big men involved.”
Added veteran forward Mike Dunleavy, “The hardest thing to guard in this league is stuff that's just random. You come down with a play every time, it's tough. You're calling it out and the other team knows what it is. We're trying to play freely and play off each other.”
They played Wednesday without Derrick Rose, a late scratch due to a recurrence of right hamstring tendinitis. He's hoping to play in Atlanta.
Even missing Rose and top scorer Jimmy Butler, the Bulls' offense flourished. Granted, Washington is struggling this year and wasn't sharp at all in the game. But it was also interesting how the ball moved through the big men. The Bulls' assist leaders against the Wizards were Pau Gasol with 9 and Taj Gibson with 7. Gibson tied E'Twaun Moore for the team scoring lead with 17 points.
“Obviously. Pau's almost had two triple-doubles (in the last three games),” McDermott said. “We're getting him involved in a lot more high post touches, which is really helping us.”
Playing inside-out seems to be creating good looks at the 3-point line. The Bulls are shooting 43.9 percent from long range over the last nine games, second only to San Antonio and better than Golden State in that span.
Moore has been red-hot from long range, hitting 17 of 29 attempts (58.6 percent) over the last nine contests.
With the ball moving and shots going down, the Bulls finally look like a team with quality depth. That was supposed to be a strength this season, but didn't pan out until recently.
McDermott has flourished lately, averaging 20 points and shooting 67.6 percent from the field in the last three games. Since he has versatile scoring skills, the extra ball movement has been a boon.
“I feel like I play my best when I move off the ball, not just stand around out there,” McDermott said. “I feel like I'm more effective on the move.”
Moore has performed well as a starter and was an effective late-game scorer against Washington. Rookie Bobby Portis has done well since the all-star break and Tony Snell had his best game in about six weeks, scoring 16 points against the Wizards.
Asked why the supporting players are starting to excel at the same time, Hoiberg pointed the finger at Dunleavy's Feb. 6 return from back surgery.
“(Dunleavy) helps the offense so much, whether he's getting shots up or not, just because he always knows where to be, spaces the floor,” Hoiberg said. “He always knows what to do against pressure. He's another guy that can really cut. With he and Doug out there together, you've got two guys that are really good at reading screens and reading situations and curling and flaring.”
The last time the Bulls went to Atlanta on Jan. 9, they were riding a six-game win streak. They lost that day to begin a 5-14 skid, so there's no sense getting too excited about winning three in a row.
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