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The under discussed and under appreciated element of Coby White’s recent hot stretch is his much improved passing, play making and facilitation game. White had a season-high 11 assists, to go along with 27 points, in the Chicago Bulls 124-116 win over the Miami Heat, and looked every bit the part of a true point guard.
White’s hot shooting will inevitably fall off — no one shoots over 50 percent on that volume of threes. But his ability to take advantage of the way he is being defended has completely changed the way the Bulls are playing. His stop-start pacing, floor mapping and a willingness to create easy offense for others shows how far his understanding of the game has developed.
And it’s making the Bulls offense fun.
Here is a short breakdown explaining how White got each of his assists.
Bulls run a stagger screen for DeMar DeRozan with White setting the second screen, then flaring open for three as Nikola Vucevic dives to the basket.
White doesn’t catch the kick out pass cleanly, so he patiently waits for the closeouts to come before finding an open Alex Caruso (who left with injury) in the corner.
Again, the Bulls get up the floor quickly and get into another stagger screen action.
This time White is handling, with Vucevic and Patrick Williams screening. There’s some confusion between who should dive and who should pop, but White stays patient and finds the open shooter.
The Bulls early offense doesn’t bear fruit, but the ball finds White with a chance to create something late-clock. He breaks down Lowry off the dribble, draws help and fires the ball to DeRozan as Jimmy Butler is reaching, giving DeRozan as much time as possible to get off a clean look.
White picked up his fourth assist of the first quarter by keeping his eyes up and helping the Bulls put pressure on the rim early.
Ay0 Dosunmu was off to the races, helping the Bulls build up an early lead, and his confidence to bounce back from a Snelly game earlier this week. He had his best game of the season (24 points on 10-of-12 shooting, eight rebounds, five assists) in large part due to his transition game.
White is positioned at the top of the key, spacing off of DeRozan, who is isolating on the empty side. DeRozan kicks out of White, who, despite being four feet behind the arc, draws a heavy contest. He patiently reads the court, realizes the three isn’t there for him, so he prods into the paint and drops it off to Andre Drummond as soon as the help comes to him.
White’s patience and ability to read the chess board as the pieces are moving around him have improved so much this season. His ability to stop and go helps him manipulate the pieces. White is in command of his game, and the game around him.
The Heat are in a zone, which has given the Bulls problems in the past because of their inability shoot over it or pass through it.
Not this time.
White pulls the ball out to set up a screen-roll close to half court in order to stretch out the defenders and make rotations that much further of a run. As he backs out and reads the defense, he sees Torrey Craig cut through the middle of the zone and finds him for a layup.
Bulls are across half court and into their initial action with 20 on the shot clock. He crosses over right-to-left to navigate over a screen from Andre Drummond.
Because of the fear he puts into opponents from beyond the arc, teams are exclusively going over screens on him. He keeps his defender in jail on his hip, while drawing the drop cover big into no-man’s land and finding Drummond on the roll.
Again, White gets the ball up across half court with more than 20 seconds on the shot clock. White finds Vucevic trailing the play, who drives and finishes before the defense can set.
White loses focus and lets his man cut to the basket. He gets a lucky break with a miss, and pushes the ball on the outlet pass. Nice live dribble overhand pass, and another nice finish in traffic from Dosunmu.
Bulls get into their early offense weave action, where Dosunmu delivers a handoff to DeRozan coming up from the corner. He flows into a pick-and-roll with Vucevic and drives it into the teeth of the defense. There are five Heat defenders in the paint, and Vucevic isn’t spacing well, so DeRozan finds White on the kick out to reset.
With the Heat in zone, no one is there to cover Vucevic, who White sees from the perimeter for an easy layup.
This shows the value of player and ball movement when facing zones. The Bulls struggles in the past have been due to them trying to isolate and dribble into the middle of the floor. But it’s much easier to break down when you shift defenders side-to-side and force them to make mistakes.
The Heat are zoned up again. Kyle Lowry closes out to White and forces him into the middle of the floor where his help is. But White acts quickly, driving into the help. With Vucevic posting up Butler on the strong side block, no one is able to scramble to the corner to contest Dosunmu.
Up Next: Bulls are back in Miami for a rematch with the Heat on Saturday night
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