Keys to the Game: Bulls at Magic (03.30.18)
Tonight the Bulls close out a back-to-back set as well as a four-game road trip with a visit to Disneyworld to take on the Orlando Magic. Chicago is 3-0 in the 2017-18 series, so tonight will be the Bulls' first opportunity to sweep Orlando since 2012-13.
The last time these two hooked up in mid-February, Chicago dished 25 assists and turned the ball over just 11 times in posting a 105-101 victory at the United Center. The Bulls' bench, led by Bobby Portis (19 points), also outscored Orlando's reserves 38-26.
A primary key for the Bulls will be to take control of the paint and the boards at both ends of the court. The team's primary ball-handlers, Cameron Payne, Jerian Grant, David Nwaba, Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine, will also have to be aggressive throughout the game by regularly attacking the basket. Persistently driving the ball to the rim will force Orlando's defense to breakdown and foul, which should in turn send the Bulls to free throw line a lot and present a number of easy scoring opportunities.
To that end, Chicago needs to come out of the gates strong and fast, and exceed Orlando's energy from the jump. The Bulls' offense is aimed at getting quick strikes with everyone playing a key role. Thus for it to run smoothly they must take advantage of their speed and athleticism and attempt to run at every opportunity. Persistently attacking early in possessions also denies Orlando's defense time to set-up and close down the paint.
The Bulls also must look to share the ball unselfishly by crisply having it jump from one side of the court to the other and from player-to-player to generate uncontested looks at the rim. When it's time to run a more standard half-court offensive set, the Bulls need to then station at least four shooters evenly along the 3-point arc to draw Orlando's defense out to the perimeter and away from the basket to open driving lanes through the paint. As soon as Orlando's defense abandons the paint and focuses its attention onto the arc, Chicago's primary ball-handlers, particularly Cameron Payne, Jerian Grant, David Nwaba, Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine, will need to doggedly attack by driving the ball into the paint to force the defense to overreact. If the Magic slide down towards the basket and/or attempts to trap or double-team, Chicago's attackers need to adjust on the fly by quickly finding an open teammate on the perimeter for a clean look at the hoop.
By and large, the Bulls want to attempt between 85-to-90 shots a game, with 30-or-more from beyond the 3-point arc. In order to achieve those objectives the team must play at a fast pace. They have to quickly move the ball up the court and make it hop. The most effective way to generate uncontested shots is to force the defense to continually scramble and expend extra energy.
To sum up, Chicago's task is to aggressively hit the floor right from the start and never let up. Defensively they must also sport a hard-nosed mindset, and commit to out-hustling Orlando from the opening seconds of the game until the final buzzer.