The Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks meet tonight at State Farm Arena in the first of four contests set for this season. Chicago comes to town looking to close the book on a back-to-back set of road games after playing in Charlotte last night, while the Hawks have patiently waited for the Bulls to arrive after soaring back from 26-point deficit to catch and pass Dallas the other night, defeating the Mavs, 111-104.
Dallas got off to a hot start, scoring 42 points in the opening quarter, but the Hawks tightened up defensively and limited the Mavs to just 16 points in the second to trim Dallas’ halftime lead to 10. Atlanta then got hot in the second half, posting two 30-point stanzas to outscore the visiting Mavericks 63-48 to come away with the seven-point victory. Atlanta shooting guard Kent Bazemore notched a career-best 32 points to lead all scorers while Hawks teammate Taurean Prince chipped in 24 points, and DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench to record his first career double-double (11 points, 16 rebounds). As a team the Hawks also snared a season-best 54 boards.
In order for the Bulls to come away with a road win tonight they’re going to have to go on the attack and never back down. Offensively Chicago needs to establish a fast pace right from the opening tip and relentlessly get the ball up the floor in a hurry in search of open teammates streaking towards the hoop. Establishing a fast pace will deny Atlanta’s defense time to set up. It will also force the Hawks’ defense to overreact and frequently breakdown
When setting up in the halfcourt Chicago will have to freely share the ball with each other, making sure all five players are involved in the action. The ball has to hop from one side of the court to the other. When the ball does end up in someone’s hands as the shot clock ticks down that player will have to go on the attack and make something happen at the hoop, be it a layup, dunk or a foul call.
Defensively the Bulls will have to focus on shutting down the paint and aggressively run shooters off the 3-point arc. Chicago cannot afford to simply allow Atlanta’s snipers, especially rookie guard Trae Young, to have free looks at the rim.
Without a doubt, a total team effort is going to be needed in order for the Bulls to end up as the last team standing this evening.