Keys to the Game: Bulls at Kings (01.06.21)

The Bulls visit the Golden 1 Center to take on the Sacramento Kings in the first of two meetings this season. The teams will tangle again on February 20th in Chicago.

Tonight's contest is also the second of a back-to-back set for the Bulls, who defeated the Trail Blazers, 111-108, last night in Portland. It's also the second game of a four game Western Conference trek for Chicago, who'll travel to Los Angeles to meet the Lakers and Clippers over the weekend.

Fans can catch tonight's game against the Kings on both local TV and radio (NBC Sports Chicago / WSCR-AM 670) beginning at 9:00 PM.

Last night's win in Portland was Chicago's fourth in their last five outings. Coby White led the Bulls' attack with a team-high 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while Otto Porter Jr. added 19 points and 13 rebounds, Zach LaVine was next with 18 points and nine assists while rookie Patrick Williams and veteran Garrett Temple each scored 14 points. As a team, Chicago shot 44 percent from the field overall and went 16 of 41 (.390) from the 3-point line.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings started the season with three victories in their first four outings but have skidded ever since, losing three in a row after getting routed by the Golden State Warriors, 137-106, Monday in San Francisco. Harrison Barnes and De'Aaron Fox each posted 18 points while Buddy Hield chipped in 10 points for the Kings, but no other player could muster more than eight. As a team, Sacramento shot just 37 percent from the field and 10 of 35 (.286) from the 3-point line.

Chicago comes into tonight playing the second-fastest tempo in the NBA, and averages 113.9 points, good for 10th in the league, while allowing 119.6 points per game. Sacramento, on the other hand, ranks 18th in averaging 110.6 points while allowing 116.7 per contest.

Once again tonight the Bulls will take the floor shorthanded, playing without the help of key players Lauri Markkanen, Tomas Satoransky, Ryan Arcidiacono and Chandler Hutchison. Those four are likely to miss this weekend's games in LA, as they're back home in Chicago due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

A major key to victory this evening for the Bulls is to keep turnovers in check while at the same time freely share the ball with one another. Chicago currently ranks 29th in the league 18.0 turnovers per game, while Sacramento does a far better job, ranking 11th with a mark of 14.9. The Kings are at their best when they're able to force opponents into rushing on offense and mishandling the ball, allowing them to get out on the break to post easy scores in transition. If the Bulls can keep turnovers to a minimum, that'll go a long way to slowing down Sacramento's attack.

For Chicago's offense to run smoothly, the ball must skip from player-to-player and from side-to-side to force opponents to burn extra energy on defense. Quick decisions and pinpoint passing will also open driving lanes through the paint and generate uncontested looks at the basket out on the perimeter. Chicago simply cannot fall into the habit of standing around and watching a teammate take on Sacramento's defense by himself. There has to be constant movement – both player and ball in and out of the paint – in order to generate a free-flowing offensive rhythm.

Thus, in order for the Bulls to stay on a winning track, they'll need to hit the hardwood running from tip-off to the final horn. They'll have to put together another gritty and hardnosed effort on the boards, as well as control the paint, while at the same time get some help from their bench. Over their last five games, Chicago has outscored opponents in the paint, 216-176, and out rebounded them, 235-212. They'll need to continue that trend again tonight.

If Chicago can take care of the ball, keeping turnovers under control, and continue to outwork opponents down low under the basket, and deliver another determined effort by outhustling Sacramento by going all out after every loose ball and long rebound, they should give themselves a great shot of winning their third game in a row and head to Los Angeles with a winning record.