“Limiting touches and attempts is the best way to start against those guys,” he said, per Eric Koreen of The Athletic ahead of the two teams’ Play-In Tournament showdown on April 12 in what will be their fourth meeting this season.
That familiarity has given the Bulls some clue even before VanVleet, an Illinois native, said it.
“I mean that’s Nick Nurse,” Bulls star DeMar DeRozan said via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic following the Bulls’ regular season-ending win over the Detroit Pistons on April 9. “Playing against Nick and playing against those guys, they try to do everything in their power to make sure I don’t beat them.”
He has never been shy about his tactics against his former player or DeRozan’s running mate.
Toronto held DeRozan to 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting in their most recent meeting on February 28, a six-point Bulls loss.
Mutual Respect Amongst Rivals
“He’s like a megastar,” Nurse (an assistant during DeRozan’s tenure) said after the Bulls notched their lone win in the regular-season series while DeRozan scored just nine points on November 7, per Mayberry. “What we had to pull out last night on him to try to stop him; I mean, we stopped him and he still had 20…We threw an all-out assault at him last night in every way we could think of — and he still got 20.”
To that end, Zach LaVine also had his production and opportunities suppressed. Toronto held the two-time All-Star to 17 points on a slightly more efficient 6-for-12 shooting in that game, though he could only sink one of his five looks from beyond the arc.
Both players typically put up more than 17 shots per game apiece and the matchup is surprisingly close.
“We understand what they do and how Nick makes adjustments and different traps,” LaVine said, per NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson after the Bulls’ win over Detroit. “I think it’s going to be about offensive rebounding, transition. It’s going to be the smaller things to get us over the top.”
OG Anunoby is Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan Stopper
Nurse has used OG Anunoby to shadow DeRozan with some very convincing – concerning if you’re the Bulls – results coming from it.
“DeMar was real nice to me,” Anunoby said of his former teammate ahead of their next duel, per Josh Lewenberg of The Sports Network on April 10. “He was a good guy. He’s still a great friend of mine. Just a great teammate. We all looked up to him and he did a good job teaching us.”
Anunoby previously took great pleasure in a dunk on DeRozan in their last meeting.
“Try to limit his touches – limit his catches, make his catches harder – and then force him into difficult shots. We did a pretty good job today. But…he’s a great player,” Anunoby said after that matchup via the Raptors’ official YouTube channel. “[Familiarity] definitely helps. But still, in the game, you don’t know what they’re going to call and he makes tough shots all the time. He’s a great player.”
For what it’s worth, DeRozan says he will take advantage of the two days off before he has to face Anunoby again but he’s keeping whatever counters that he has to himself.
“We got a couple days to gameplan [and] put together something,” Derzoan said. But I’m aware of it, for sure. I’m aware of it. For my sake, I definitely have my own theory for how I’m going to deal with it.”