Keys to the Game: Bulls at Hornets (11.23.19)

Tonight, the Bulls make their final visit to Charlotte this season to take on the Hornets, while also closing the book on a back-to-back set of weekend games. Last night the Bulls and the Miami Heat met at the United Center, with Miami winning, 116-108.

In the season opener against Charlotte, Chicago started slow, falling behind by 16 points late in the opening half, but eventually the Bulls rallied to take a 10-point lead with a little more than six minutes left in the game. However, Charlotte's sizzling shooting from behind the arc all night long (23-for-44, 52.3%, compared to Chicago's 9-for-30, 30%) proved lethal as the Hornets closed hard and escaped with an exciting 126-125 victory in front of their home crowd.

Chicago's Lauri Markkanen led all scorers with 35 points that night as the third-year Finn also grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds. Rookie Coby White and veteran Thad Young came off the Bulls bench to post 17 points apiece. White also dished seven assists in his pro debut, while Zach LaVine produced 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Hornets rookie PJ Washington exploded onto the scene in his pro debut for 27 points to lead Buzz City. The 12th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft went 7-for-11 from downtown, while second-year guard Devonte Graham was equally blistering from behind the arc, knocking down 6-of-7 on his way to a career-high 23 points.

As for tonight's contest, look for the Bulls to play fast and crash the boards hard at both ends of the floor. A focused and determined rebounding effort — especially on the defensive end of the floor — will ignite Chicago's running game.

Chicago must play unselfishly with the ball, constantly skipping it from player-to-player and from side-to-side to find cracks in the defense and open looks at the rim. All five Bulls players on the floor must also show a readiness and a willingness to attack the rim every time a path opens in the paint.

Bulls Head Coach Jim Boylen will likely run out a starting five of Tomas Satoransky and Zach LaVine in the backcourt, Shaquille Harrison, and Lauri Markkanen in the frontcourt with Wendell Carter Jr. manning the middle. And although Chicago comes into tonight as the NBA's third-youngest squad with an average age of 24.5, the team's high-charged, athletic depth should give Boylen confidence enough to call on as many as nine or 10 players (depending on matchups) this evening.

On the defensive end, the Bulls must keep the lines of communication open and free flowing and aggressively look to shut down the paint, forcing Charlotte to shoot contested, low percentage shots.

In order for Chicago to tap into its potential they're going to have to approach every game with a blue collar mentality, battling on the boards at both ends of the floor while also never failing to hustle on defense and/or fight tooth-and-nail for every loose ball.