Keys to the Game: Bulls vs Hawks (10.17.19)

Tonight, the Chicago Bulls close out the 2019-20 preseason at home against the Atlanta Hawks, who got into town in the wee hours of the morning after defeating the New York Knicks, 100-96, in Gotham City last night.

The last time the Bulls hit the hardwood was Sunday in Toronto where Zach LaVine's game-high 26 points led Chicago to a 105-91 thumping of the defending NBA champion Raptors.

LaVine shot a blistering 9-of-14, including 4-of-6 from long distance, while Lauri Markkanen added 15 points and 13 rebounds, and rookie Coby White connected on four three-pointers in posting 18 points on the day.

Once again Chicago did an excellent job of keeping the ball on the move, accumulating 26 assists on 37 made field goals, and empowering its offense to launch a franchise record 49 three-point attempts, connecting on 18 (36.7%) from behind the arc. In fact, the Bulls attempted more threes (49) than twos (41) for the first time ever.

Second-year pivot Wendell Carter Jr. also made his preseason debut against the Raptors, logging 17 minutes as a starter, scoring two points and gathering seven rebounds.

With the healthy return of both LaVine and Markkanen, along with the additions of free agent signee Tomas Satoransky and last year's trade deadline pickup of Otto Porter Jr., along with the drafting of White, Chicago has the look of a fast-paced, three-point firing crew that can give opponents matchup nightmares while pumping Chicago fans with plenty of excitement this season.

As for tonight, expect Bulls Head Coach Jim Boylen to coach this game as if it counts for real. Once again, he'll run out a starting five of Satoransky and LaVine in the backcourt, Porter Jr. and Markkanen in the frontcourt with Carter Jr. in the middle. Chicago's overall depth this season also seems legit, as Boylen's regular rotation can go 10 deep depending on matchups.

With regards to Atlanta, much like the Bulls, the Hawks' focus the past couple of years has been to add as much young talent as possible with the goal of becoming a dominate Eastern Conference power in the near future.

Led by 21-year old, second-year point guard Trae Young, the Hawks now boast five regulars ages 22-and under (rookie Cam Reddish (20), second-year shooter Kevin Huerter (21), rookie De'Andre Hunter (21) and center John Collins (22) are the others). Atlanta is also home to the league's oldest player, Vince Carter, who will turn 43 in January and is now in his 22nd NBA year.

After a brutal 6-23 start to last season Atlanta seemed to find its groove, finishing 23-30 down the stretch led by the dynamic duo of Young and Collins. Young finished second the Dallas' Luka Doncic for the 2018-19 NBA Rookie of the Year award, after averaging 19.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 8.1 assists. Collins, who was in his second season last year, was just as impressive, although injuries limited him to 61 games. All-in-all, Collins' averages of 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds forced everyone in the league to also circle his name in red on their scouting reports.

This evening's contest will be Atlanta's third preseason tilt in the last four nights, thus as of this writing there's really no telling who Hawks Head Coach Lloyd Pierce might decide to sit out.