Keys to the Game: Bulls at Pistons (12.6.16)

Tonight the Bulls (11-9) are in the Motor City to take on the resurgent Detroit Pistons (11-11) who have won three of their last four games. Over this stretch, the Pistons have stacked impressive road wins over Charlotte, Boston and Atlanta yet they stumbled at home against Orlando, 98-92, Sunday night. Nevertheless, Detroit’s all-around game has been firing on all cylinders as they’ve averaged 111.5 points while giving up just 96.5 during this stretch. The Bulls on the other hand have lost three of their last four, and tonight closes the book on the team’s lone four-games-in-five-nights quirk of the schedule.

Last night at the United Center, the Bulls did most things right, yet they still lost to Portland, 112-110. “We wanted to hold them to under double-digit 3s (the Blazers made 9). We wanted to win the free throw battle and we did 33-13, and we even outscored them on the break, 26-9, and controlled the boards (50-38), but when it counted most, especially down the stretch, they made more plays than we did,” Bulls Head Coach Fred Hoiberg said afterwards.

A primary key this evening will be Chicago’s ability to be physical and once again wrestle control the boards. The Bulls currently rank 2nd rebounding (48.7), whereas the Pistons, as a team, are near the middle of the pack at No. 12 (44.5).

The Bulls can really make an impact in tonight’s game on the offensive glass, as they continue to be the league frontrunners by snaring 13.9 offensive caroms a night. Overall, they hold a commanding +5.6 edge over opponents in total rebounds, and have outscored them in second-chance points, 328-248.

Offensively, the Bulls need to persistently push the ball up the floor and keep it jumping it from player-to-player and from side-to-side. To truly click, the ball can’t get stuck in anyone’s hands for very long. The ball needs to hop between everyone on the floor.

The Bulls have clearly been the most effective when they go on the attack, forcing the opposition onto its heels and into fouling. As a team, Chicago has done a superb job of getting to the line and making opponents pay a heavy price at the charity stripe by outscoring foes to the tune of 401-275.

In short, Chicago has to hit the hardwood fast and strong at both ends and never slow down. From the opening tip to the final horn, the Bulls must play with a gritty attitude.