Keys to the Game: Bulls vs. Pelicans (11.04.17)

Tonight the Bulls are back home to take on Windy City favorite son Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans in the first of two get-togethers set for this season. Both squads are closing a set of back-to-backs, with Chicago returning to the United Center after playing in Orlando last night and the Pelicans swooping into town from Dallas where they took on the Mavericks.

New Orleans and Chicago met twice in October, splitting a pair preseason games with the road team claiming victory both times.

The Pels come to town looking to change their luck as they have lost six straight to the Bulls over the last three seasons.

New Orleans’s veteran laden starting five is headed by the aforementioned Davis, who stands 6’10 and 6’11 center DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins. As of this writing Cousins is second in the league in scoring, posting a mark of 30.1 points a game, while Davis clocks in at 27.1. Both big men, who also happened to have attended the University of Kentucky (but not at the same time), are also major players on the backboard, as Cousins ranks 4th in the league by pulling down 13 rebounds a game while Davis stands 5th at 12.1.

Overall, the Pels roster has a very distinctive Chicago feel, as not only is Anthony Davis from the city, but so is hardnosed reserve guard Tony Allen, while starting wing E’Twaun Moore, back-up center Omer Asik and currently injured veteran floor general Rajon Rondo all played for the Bulls at one time or another.

Offensively the Bulls have been at their most effective whenever they aggressively push the ball up the floor, and keep it hopping from player-to-player and from side-to-side. Chicago’s guards cannot hold onto the ball or fall into a trap of trying to beat defenders one-on-one every trip down the floor. For the offense to click, the ball must move freely and crisply, finding its way into everyone’s hands in search of a good shot.

Overall, the Bulls have to consistently spread the floor yet at the same time eye opportunities to take the action to the rim in hopes of forcing New Orleans’s defense to scramble and foul. Both Davis and Cousins are intimidating rim-protectors. But that can’t stop Chicago’s playmakers, in particular Kris Dunn, Jerian Grant and Kay Felder, from setting their minds to attack-mode. In order for the Bulls to succeed the team cannot settle for outside jumpers. Chicago has to seize any opportunity that presents itself to drive the ball deep into the paint in order to create chaos for the Pels team defense.

In short, the Bulls have to come out of the gates fast and play aggressive at both ends of the floor. At no time can Chicago afford to slow the pace. As mentioned above, they must share the ball, while at the same time take good care of it by limiting turnovers. Sloppy, careless passes and unfocused, undisciplined play at either end of the court is a recipe for disaster.

Nobody ever promised life was going to be easy, thus it very likely will be a struggle for the Bulls to keep both Davis and Cousins in check this evening, but they have to try. One possible way to do so is to keep the pace of the game fast and free. Big men usually don’t like to continuously run up and down the court, so if Chicago can set a fast pace, the Pels’ goliaths might need to sit down more than they usually do. Plus it doesn’t hurt that this game is the second of a back-to-back for New Orleans.