The Chicago Bulls are currently the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and could be a tough opponent in the playoffs.
The Bulls have a great defense, but it has had some problems against fast-paced, high-scoring teams. They also have many offensive deficiencies that could end up hurting them.
So what will it take to beat the Bulls in the postseason?
There are a couple of things a team will have to do to beat Chicago in a seven-game series.
Pressure the Ball-Handler
Kirk Hinrich should be back by the time playoffs begin, giving the Bulls an upgrade in the point guard department. While it makes the Bulls better in the half court, they still lack a good one-on-one player.
Chicago relies heavily on ball movement to score since it has little to no players who can attack the basket. If defenses put pressure on the point guard as he comes up the court, it will disrupt the flow of the offense, leading to failed possessions.
Disrupting the Bulls' ball movement is key, as they can only score in the half court.
Ball pressure can also force the player to make quick or rushed passes, leading to turnovers and easy transition buckets.
Chicago averages just under 15 turnovers per game, half of them steals. Teams can capitalize on this and get easy baskets in transition.
Which leads to the next point...
Push the Pace
It's not easy to score on the Bulls' defense; they allow a third-best 92.3 points per game and will make sure their opponents get no easy shots. However, playing at a fast pace and capitalizing on transition opportunities can counter Chicago's stifling defense.
Teams like the Denver Nuggets and the Houston Rockets have had success against the Bulls mainly due to their ability to get so many fast-break points. They forced turnovers and ran every chance they got, giving them easy points in the paint.
According to TeamRankings, the Bulls allow 13.2 fast-break points per game, 15th in the league. It's not bad, but it's not great
Christmas Day against the Rockets, the Bulls gave up 31 fast-break points in a 120-97 blowout. The Nuggets have scored a total of 53 fast-break points in two wins over the Bulls.
Making the Bulls play an up-and-down game takes them out of their comfort zone, and they've fallen to teams that are able to force their pace on them.
Bulls opponents have had success making them defend the pick-and-roll, especially if they have a good point guard.
As you can see in the video, Deron Williams forced Taj Gibson to leave Brook Lopez open in the paint for an easy dunk. That wasn't the only time the Nets were able to execute a good pick-and-roll against the Bulls defense.
The Bulls generally do a good job of defending this play, however. Per Synergy, Hinrich allows only .82 points per play in which he defends the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll situation, and Nate Robinson allows .81 per play.
What could hurt the Bulls is a big who can stretch the floor, especially since Carlos Boozer isn't the best defender.
If the playoffs started today, the Bulls would be matched against the New York Knicks. The Knicks can run the pick-and-roll with Carmelo Anthony, forcing Boozer to play him on the perimeter. 'Melo can then spot up and shoot or use his quickness to get inside.
The Bulls will surely be a tough opponent in the playoffs. Their style of play is exactly what the postseason demands: tough defense and a good half-court offense. However, there is still a lot of work to do if they want to avoid a first-round exit.
If a team can successfully exploit these weak points, the Bulls could see their offseason start earlier than they wanted.