Keys to the Game: Bulls vs. Golden State (12.27.20)

The Bulls return to the home hardwood this evening to close out a back-to-back pair of weekend games by meeting up with the Golden State Warriors. Fans can catch all the action live on local TV and radio (NBC Sports Chicago / WSCR-AM 670 / TUDN, Univision 1200AM), beginning at 7:00 PM.

After tonight's contest, Chicago heads to our Nation's Capital to take on the Washington Wizards for two games beginning Tuesday at 6:00 PM (CT), and ending Thursday afternoon at 4:00 PM (CT).

As for tonight, both the Bulls and Golden State come in searching for their first victory on the new season. Tonight's contest is also the third of a four-game Eastern Conference road swing for the Warriors, who started the 2020-21 campaign losing 125-99 to the Nets in Brooklyn, before spending Christmas in Milwaukee, falling 138-99 to the Bucks. After tonight's clash with the Bulls, the Dubs travel to Motown to meet up with the Pistons Tuesday night before getting to go home to the City by the Bay to tip-off a lengthy seven game homestand.

The Bulls, on the other hand, were able to open the new season at home against Atlanta Wednesday, and Indiana last night, but got thumped nonetheless both games. Chicago's defense has been nothing short of horrific, as Indiana was able to hit the century mark a little over a minute into the fourth quarter yesterday, while Atlanta reached triple digits halfway through the third in the Opener.

After a solid opening 12 minutes against the Pacers last night to claim a 28-27 lead after one quarter, Indiana turned up the defensive heat and a landslide of turnovers and missed open shots began piling up leading to a 21-0 Pacers run to change the complexion of the game. For the night, Indiana was able to score 25 points off 20 Bulls turnovers. In the Opener earlier in the week, Atlanta was able to post 29 points off 17 Chicago miscues.

Another disturbing trend to the new season Chicago must address right away if they're going to give themselves a chance of turning things around is to begin making their presence felt on the boards and under the basket. Both Atlanta and Indiana have flat out dominated the low post. The Hawks out rebounded Chicago 46-37, and outscored the Bulls 50-44 in the paint. Indiana also wrestled control the glass, 49-41, and flat out bullied Chicago in the paint, outscoring the Bulls 76-34. Thus, it's pretty obvious if the Bulls want to stop the bleeding, they're going to need to buckle down defensively by making a concerted effort to shut down the paint and force Golden State into launching only contested shots far from the hoop.

As for offense, the Bulls must trust one another by freely sharing the ball, skipping it from player-to-player and from side-to-side, forcing the Warriors defense onto its heels for most of the night. The ball cannot stick in any one player's hands for too long. Constant ball and player movement is key to establishing a free-flowing offensive rhythm.

The Warriors come into tonight having won six straight against the Bulls, including the last three at the United Center. All-Star Steph Curry is also back to good health and firing away from deep. He's only one 3-pointer away from becoming just the third player in NBA history to record 2,500 treys in their career (Ray Allen, 2,973 / Reggie Miller, 2,560). Curry has also made his last 55 free throw attempts. So, Chicago's guards can't relax when it comes to keeping an eye on Curry and shadowing him all over the floor this evening.

Another Warrior to keep tabs on is rookie center James Wiseman, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the Draft this year. The 7-foot, 19-year old rookie has posted a total of 37 points in his first two games as a pro. Against Milwaukee on Christmas Day, Wiseman tallied 18 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.