Keys to the Game: Bulls vs Charlotte (04.03.18)

Tonight the Bulls host the Charlotte Hornets who hope to earn a season-series split at two games apiece. The last time these two clubs got together occurred in late February in the Buzz City where Charlotte successfully defended its home floor by running away with a 118-103 victory.

After a tight, back-and-forth opening half that saw the score knotted at 51, Hornets big man Dwight Howard erupted for 16 points in the third quarter to take charge of the game. Charlotte's two-time All-Star, Kemba Walker, led all scorers with 31, while Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky came off the Buzz's bench to chip in 15 and 11 points, respectively. Zach LaVine paced Chicago with 21 points.

A vital key for the Bulls, who is looking to extend a two-game winning streak to three tonight, will be to control the paint and/or at worst, hold their own down low and on the boards at both ends of the court.

Once again Chicago's Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine will miss this evening's game due to injury, thus their primary backups, Cameron Payne, Jerian Grant, David Nwaba, Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine, will need to step-up their games tonight by looking to drive to the basket at every opportunity. Relentless pressure by this crew will go a long way in forcing Charlotte's defense to overreact and eventually break down, which should allow the Bulls to get to the free throw line to post easy scores.

To that end, Chicago has to come out of the gates fast and strong, and look to surpass Charlotte's energy right from the opening tip. When the Bulls are hitting on all cylinders offensively, they play fast and strike quickly. Thus in order for them to take advantage of their speed and athleticism, Chicago has to crash the boards and get out on the break and run at every opportunity.

Attacking early in possessions not only helps to accelerate the pace of the game, it also denies opponents time to set up defensively and/or close off the paint.

In order for the Bulls to compete they also need to do a terrific job of sharing the ball, crisply moving it from one side of the court to the other and from player to player. They also have to place shooters evenly all along the 3-point arc to entice the defense to leave the paint and focus most of its attention onto the perimeter. As soon as the Hornets step away from the basket and begin to pay close attention to the arc, Payne, Grant, Nwaba, Holiday and Valentine need to tenaciously attack, driving the ball hard through the paint in order to force the defense to scramble. If Charlotte counters by sliding back down towards the hoop and/or attempts to trap or double-team, Chicago's attackers need to adjust on the fly by locating an open teammate on the perimeter for an uncontested jumper.

By and large, the Bulls would like to launch between 85-to-90 shots every game, with 30-or-more from beyond the 3-point arc. In order to achieve these objectives they must play fast and unselfishly, speedily moving the ball up the court while freely sharing it and forcing the defense to scramble and expend extra energy.

Thus the Bulls' primary task this evening is to be aggressive and never back off. Defensively they show up with a hardnosed mindset, and commit to outhustling and outworking Charlotte from the opening tip-off through the final buzzer.