Keys to the Game: Bulls vs Cavaliers (10.30.19)

After falling 105-98 against the New York Knicks in Gotham City on Monday, the Chicago Bulls look to get back track this evening in Cleveland when they take on the Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. The loss to the Knicks pushed the Bulls record to 1-3 on the season. The Cavs come into tonight with a mark of 1-2.

Against the Knicks Chicago got off to a hot start, jumping to an 11-3 lead early on, then owning a 33-15 edge at the end of the opening quarter. Twice over the course of the game the Bulls stretched their lead to 18 points, yet inexplicably instead of continuing to freely share the ball and finding an open teammate for a clean look at the rim, they lapsed into some old bad habits by taking some early contested shots, and forgetting to move the ball, but rather look to attack one-on-one (or oftentimes one-on-three) while teammates failed to free themselves up, watching off to the side, as well as generally failing to crash the boards whenever a shot went up. In fact, New York ended up outrebounding the Bulls 63-38, with 25 of those caroms coming from the offensive end. The result of these breakdowns allowed New York to claw its way back into the game, tying the score midway through the fourth quarter and then taking the lead for good down the stretch.

Led by former Bulls forward Bobby Portis, the Knicks streaked to a 15-0 run to close the game in notching their first victory on the season.

Portis came off the bench to lead all scorers with 28 points. Knicks rookie RJ Barrett also enjoyed a strong game with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 21 points, while Wendell Carter Jr. had his best game as a pro, finishing with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks, two assists and a steal.

As for tonight, look for Chicago to try to come out of the gates fast and aggressive once again and hopefully stick to that game plan this time around. The Bulls are at their best when they create a fast pace and get into the face of opponents on the defensive end. It's also essential they concentrate on controlling the boards at both ends of the floor — especially at the defensive end as doing helps to ignite the running game.

As they demonstrated in the past, the Bulls also need to generously share the ball, making it consistently hop from player-to-player and from side-to-side, making sure everyone gets involved in the action.

They also need to station shooters all around the 3-point arc, forcing Cleveland's defense to decide between abandoning the paint and opening driving lanes to the basket or staying down low and freeing up shooters on the perimeter for uncontested looks at the cup from behind the arc.

Defensively the Bulls simply cannot let the Cavs establish an easy rhythm on offense. Chicago's team defense needs to stay tied together and communicate with one another when it comes to rotations and making sure Cleveland must work hard on every possession.

The Bulls must play the role of aggressors, showing up in a nasty mood. They have to be willing to get physical while at the same time stay focused and poised at both ends of the floor.