Keys to the Game: Bulls at Pistons (10.20.21)

Remind Me Later

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The Bulls roll into the Motor City to tip-off the 2021-22 NBA season against their longtime Central Division rivals, the Detroit Pistons. Fans can catch tonight's season opening action on TV and radio (NBC Sports Chicago / WSCR-AM 670) beginning at 6:00 PM (CT).

Chicago hits the hardwood after stampeding to a perfect 4-0 preseason run, while Detroit looks to get off on the right foot after finishing last year with the second-worst record in the league.

This Time It's for Real!

As exciting as a 4-0 preseason was for Chicago, tonight's the official start of an 82-game marathon where the results count for real. The new-look Bulls need to get off to fast starts. Creating a fast pace from the jump and sticking with it throughout the rest of the night is vital. If there's one thing that can be taken from preseason, it's the fact this year's team is capable of doing just that.

Long, lean, and athletic, Chicago needs to make every game a track meet. The starting five is savvy, battletested, and loaded with talent, while the bench is young, hungry, and hardnosed. Bulls Head Coach Billy Donovan will likely employ a 9–10-man rotation most nights, with starters seeing 32-34 minutes. Positive contributions off the bench will be a vital aspect for Chicago to achieve success.

DeRozan

Deny, Deny and Deny!

For all the angst many in the media expressed as to how bad the Bulls were going to be defensively, just the opposite was the case in the preseason. Chicago collected no less than 10 steals per game and forced opponents to turn the ball over a whopping 76 times (19.0). In fact, the Bulls held opponents to an average of just 96.5 points while scoring 118, both of which ranked second in the league.

How did they do it? By sticking their collective noses into the passing and driving lanes and refusing to allow free runs to the rim. They'll need to continue down this path tonight and all throughout the season to make serious noise. Defense is contagious, and Chicago has some pretty solid defenders in the likes of Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Alize Johnson, Javonte Green and Tony Bradley, all of whom should play a lot this year. Believe it or not, Nikola Vučević, DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine also turned heads with active hands and defensive pressure in the preseason as well. Good communication, and recognizing the right moments to rotate, as well as locating and running knock-down shooters off the 3-point arc will make the Bulls an effective defensive team.

Caruso Dribbles

Hustle and Flow

Another vital aspect to being a successful all-around team is a willingness to play together. There's an old saying – "A rising tide lifts all boats" – and that's pretty much what the Bulls have been saying and doing since training camp. Personal stats aside, the only task at hand each night is to win.

As mentioned above, the Bulls put up 118points per game during the preseason. They also averaged 52.5 rebounds (2nd), 28 assists (3rd), and 12.5 steals (4th). Those numbers show a willingness to work together for a common goal. Chicago will need to the same tonight against Detroit. The ball must skip from player-to-player, with everyone getting involved in the action. As a team, Chicago needs to shut down the paint defensively while also hitting the boards hard at both ends of the floor. Outhustling and outworking the Pistons in every phase, especially holding them to a "one-and-done" offense by commanding the defensive boards and looking to runout on the break to post easy scores in transition is the perfect recipe for an Opening night win.

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