Keys to the Game: Bulls vs New Orleans Pelicans (10.08.21)

Feeling Defensive

For all the national and local media handwringing about how bad the Bulls are going to be defensively this year, the new-look crew sure put on a clinic the other night against Cleveland. Over the game's first 14 minutes, Chicago had seven steals and seven blocked shots. By the end of the night the Bulls had 13 steals, 11 blocks and held the Cavs to just 35 percent shooting, running away with a 131-95 victory. As a collective unit Chicago forced 22 Cleveland turnovers, which led to 26 points. So maybe, just maybe the Bulls' defense ain't that bad after all?

With two of the team's best defensive players, Patrick Williams (sprained left ankle) and backup center, Tony Bradley (low back strain) sidelined, Javonte Green stepped in for Williams, and together with new lead guard Lonzo Ball, relentlessly swarmed the ball and shutdown passing lanes, while Chicago's entire team ended up catching the same defensive fever by staying aggressive all game long. The end result of this feeding frenzy forced Cleveland to fail to find a comfortable rhythm while in possession of the ball. A repeat performance by the entire active Bulls roster tonight might go a long way in shutting up some of the self-proclaimed NBA experts.

Control the Boards

Another important aspect to winning in the NBA is how a team rebounds. The Bulls are not close to being among the league's biggest and/or physically strongest teams, but they are very athletic and long. The other night against Cleveland, a team that is considerably bigger than Chicago, the Bulls defeated the Cavs on glass, 57-51, including offensively, 13-10. All-in-all, Chicago outscored the Cavs 52-40 in the paint and 19-10 in second-chance opportunities. New Orleans is also physically bigger than Chicago, but not as athletically gifted, especially with Zion Williamson (right foot surgery) and possibly All-Star Brandon Ingram (right knee contusion) skipping tonight's contest. Ingram isn't a rebounder, but he sure can shoot if given the chance, or multiple chances. So, once again it's important for the Bulls this evening to work the glass hard. Doing so and succeeding will lead to good things such as fastbreaks and a barrage of open court dunks and easy scores.

Sharing is Caring

A third important key tonight for Chicago will be to continue sharing the ball, making it hop from one side to the other in getting and keeping everyone involved in the flow of the game. Against the Cavs the other night the Bulls dished a whopping 36 assists on 51 made baskets. Golden State led the league in assists last year with an average of 27.7 per game. So obviously 36 is a pretty big number, and more the exception than the norm, but this year's Bulls squad is loaded with willing passers and elite level scoring options. So, look for Chicago to keep swinging the ball. There really shouldn't be a lot of isolation, one-on-one action when the Bulls have the ball in their hands. On the contrary, there should be a lot of player movement, cutting in and out of the paint and skipping the ball from side-to-side in search of open looks at the rim.