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Bulls Picking Apart Pick-and-Roll

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The Bulls have been the league's best defensive team since Chicago hired Tom Thibodeau before the 2011 season. But they've achieved that in a sort of counterintuitive way. The NBA is a pick-and-roll league, and you can feel Thibodeau's stress building when he starts talking about facing "50 or 60 or 70" pick-and-rolls in the same game, "and with so many variations."

The pick-and-roll is a two-man play, generally involving a ball handler and a big guy setting a screen for that ball handler. Chicago has built its defense around an interesting principle: It wants one of the two guys directly involved in the pick-and-roll shooting at the end of it.

There are other rules and sub-rules,1 but Chicago under Thibodeau has consistently ranked at or near the top of the league in the...

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