Keys to the Game: Bulls at Pistons (11.30.18)

The Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons tip-off for the second time this season, but this evening will be the first at Little Caesars Arena located in the heart of Motown.

In the opener of the four game season series between the two teams, the Pistons came away with a 118-116 win at the United Center. Chicago shot .500 from the field (44-of-88) and held Detroit to .406 (41-of-101), but a balanced attack in which all five Motown starters notched double figures, headed by Blake Griffin’s 33 points ended up saving the day.

The Pistons come into tonight winners of three straight and seven of their last nine while Chicago is on the opposite spectrum having lost four in a row and eight of their last nine.

Led by Griffin (25.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists) and Andre Drummond (18.7 points, 16 rebounds, 1.7 blocks), the Pistons have crafted an 11-7 record on the year, good for 5th in the East. Both players have been nothing short of outstanding, as Drummond already has 10 games of 20-plus points scored and 10-plus rebounds while Griffin has nine in 18 games. The other night against New York, Griffin put up 30 and dished out five assists to lead the Pistons to a 115-108 victory over the Knicks. It was his sixth time his hit the 30 point mark this season.

Under head coach Dwane Casey, the Pistons have implemented a new offense, one in which long distance jumpers and an equal number of runs to the rim is the primary goal each night. That doesn’t mean they’re focused on attempting 45 3s and 45 layups/dunks every time out, but rather Casey’s blueprint is more of a read and react scheme, where constant ball and player movement is vital. It’s safe to assume Drummond won’t take any jumpers from behind the arc, as he’ll constantly look overpower defenders near the basket. Griffin will also look to attack the iron, but he’s definitely not opposed to dialing up from long distance from time to time.

As a team, Detroit has made 10 or more 3s in seven of their last eight games, and have posted 201 treys through 18 games this season, marking the second-highest total of any team in franchise history through as many contests. Against the Bulls the first time they met at the United Center, the Pistons hit 18 times from behind the bend.

Defensively this evening a primary key for Chicago will be the team’s ability to communicate in calling out screens and keeping track of their assigned man. Offensively, the Bulls will need to spread out to open the middle of the floor, stationing at least three shooters of their own far apart along the 3-point arc to force Detroit’s defense to defend the perimeter and free up room under the basket. Chicago also has to be willing to share the ball with one another, keeping all five players involved in the action. Crisp and steady ball movement by the Bulls will help open up driving lanes to the hoop and open looks at the iron from outside.

Another important facet for Chicago will be their ability to keep their poise when Detroit’s defense looks to get physical. The Bulls simply can’t allow themselves to get rattled or lose control of their emotions. For their offense to run smoothly they have to withstand pressure and/or distraction while having the ball jump from player-to-player, skipping from side-to-side in forcing the Pistons to scramble and expend extra energy.

Lastly the Bulls have to aggressively take advantage of every opportunity to drive deep into the paint and get to the basket. In order to give themselves a shot of coming out on top tonight, Chicago has to find a way to get to the free throw line (and convert) far more often than the Pistons.