Keys to the Game: Bulls vs Cleveland (10.05.21)

by bulls.com
Remind Me Later

Body

Hi! What's your name?

The Bulls' offseason transformation has left only four (Zach LaVine, Coby White, Patrick Williams, and two-way player Devon Dotson) players on the roster from the start of last year. Thus, the first key tonight has got to be for everyone to find ways to get to know one another on the floor. Both Coby White and Patrick Williams are out rehabbing injuries, but 4/5s of the Bulls' new-look starting lineup (LaVine, Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević) will take the floor together and get an opportunity to begin figuring out how to mesh. Communication at both ends of the floor, especially on defense, will be vital.

Williams, LaVine and White

Run, baby, run!

Bulls Head Coach Billy Donovan has made it clear he's looking to play fast this season. And why not? Chicago's new roster is loaded with explosive athletes capable of flying down the floor and soaring to the rim. To take advantage of this Chicago needs to aggressively defend both inside and outside. On top of that, it's also important for the Bulls to collectively take control of the defensive boards and look to get the ball into the hands of a teammate out on the wing streaking in the other direction for an easy score.

Head Coach Billy Donovan

There's nothing cavalier about Cleveland's starting backcourt.

Cleveland's backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland drives the Cavs' attack. Sexton scored 20+ points in 48 of his 60 appearances last season, averaging career-highs in scoring (24.5), FG% (.475), assists (4.4), steals (1.03) and minutes (35.5). Garland also put-up career highs in scoring (17.4), rebounding (2.4), assists (6.1,), steals (1.2), minutes (33.1), FG% (.451) and 3FG% (.395). He also recorded six double-doubles. Both will look to fire away from deep, but Sexton isn't afraid to attack the paint and find a way to get to the free throw line. Chicago's guards will need to always keep both in front of them, and if either slips past, the Bulls' defense down low will need to quickly rotate and close off driving lanes to the iron.

Collin Sexton Media Day

The return of Denzel and The Finisher!

Tonight's game also marks the first-time former Bulls Denzel Valentine and Lauri Markkanen visit the United Center wearing the other team's uniform. The two former Bulls first round draft picks (Valentine, 14th overall in the 2016 Draft, Markkanen the 7th pick in the 2017 Draft) joined the Cavaliers over the summer as a free agent signee and as part of a three-team trade, respectively. Both Valentine and Markkanen are terrific long-distance shooters, and both no doubt will be motivated to have a big game tonight. Chicago will have to keep close tabs on both hovering out on the arc, and not leave either alone for too long. Of the two, Markkanen is the one more likely to attempt to attack the rim from time to time. If he does, the Bulls will have to put a body on him and let him know -- friend or no friend -- no free passes to the hoop are being passed out.

Denzel Valentine in a Cleveland Cavs jersey
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