Keys to the Game: Bulls vs Nets (04.07.18)

Tonight the Bulls return home after taking on the Celtics in Boston to host the Brooklyn Nets, hoping to even the season series at a game apiece. Brooklyn took the opener at the Barclays Center in late February, 104-87. That night Chicago failed to post more than 20 points in three of the four quarters, and were outscored 55-36 in the second half. And although the Bulls outrebounded Brooklyn 56-48, the Nets connected on 16-of-42 from downtown, while Chicago shot a miserable 6-of-23 from the arc. Brooklyn also out-assisted the Bulls 31-17 in running away with a 17-point victory.

A vital key for Chicago each game is to take control the paint and the boards at both ends of the court. In order to succeed the Bulls have to establish themselves as aggressors from the opening tip. Defensively, they must show up to work with a scrappy attitude and be willing to do whatever is necessary to grab every rebound and loose ball.

To that end, the Bulls need to come out of the gates fast and strong, and look to surpass Brooklyn's energy from the moment they step into the UC. The Bulls are at their best when they play fast and look to strike quickly. Thus they have to crash the boards in order to get into transition at every opportunity.

Lastly, attacking early in possessions not only helps to speed up the pace of the game, it also doesn't allow opponents the ability to get set defensively and/or shut down driving lanes through the paint.

In order for the Bulls to succeed they need to do a great job of sharing the ball, crisply passing it from one side of the court to the other and from player to player. They also need to station shooters all along the 3-point arc to entice the defense to focus most of its attention onto the perimeter. As soon as the Nets step out from under the basket and begin to defend the arc, Chicago's primary ballhandlers — Cameron Payne, Jerian Grant, David Nwaba, Justin Holiday and Sean Kilpatrick will need to go on the attack, driving the ball through the paint and force the defense into overreacting. If Brooklyn adjusts by sliding back down under the hoop and/or attempts to trap or double-team, Chicago's attackers need to readjust on the fly by getting the ball out to an open teammate on the perimeter for an uncontested look at the rim.

By and large, the Bulls want to launch between 85-to-90 shots, with 30-or-more coming from beyond the 3-point arc. In order to achieve those objectives they have to play unselfishly and fast, freely moving the ball up the court while forcing the defense to expend extra energy.

Thus the Chicago's primary task this evening is to be aggressive and never back off. Defensively they have to show up sporting a hardnosed mindset, and commit to outhustling Brooklyn every step of the way.