Keys to the Game: Bulls vs. Pistons (03.21.21)

This evening the Bulls and the Detroit Pistons get together for the second time this season.

In the first encounter, Detroit came out firing, jumping to a commanding 25-point lead halfway through the second quarter. Chicago was able to get back on its feet and narrow the gap somewhat, but still trailed 61-43 at the half.

The Bulls caught fire on both sides of the ball early in the third quarter, with All-Star Zach LaVine leading the charge in scoring 15 points in the period. The defense also tightened considerably, holding Detroit to just a dozen, whittling the Pistons lead from 18 at the start of the third quarter to three, 73-70, heading into the final 12 minutes of the game.

Chicago continued its rampage throughout the fourth, outscoring the Pistons 35-29 to capture a 105-102 victory. The 25-point comeback tied for the second biggest rally in franchise history. LaVine finished the game with 37 points, followed by Wendell Carter Jr. with 18 points. Veteran Thaddeus Young also came off Chicago's bench, contributing 9 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.

For the game, the Bulls dished out 29 assists on 41 baskets, and they also won the battle of the boards, 46-40.

Jerami Grant led the Pistons and all scorers with a career-high 43 points.

The Bulls come into today looking to snap a two-game losing streak after squandering a 14-point, fourth quarter lead against the Denver Nuggets in the Mile High City, Friday night. Denver All-Star Jamal Murray drained a game-tying 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds on the clock to force overtime. Murray and fellow Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokić did what All-Stars do down the stretch, hitting key shot after key shot to push Denver to a 131-127 victory. Once again LaVine was Chicago's leading scorer with 32 points. Veteran forward Otto Porter Jr. also had one of his best games as a Bull, putting up 22 points off the bench.

For the season, Chicago now stands at 18-22. LaVine leads the team in scoring and assists with averages of 28.5 points and 5.0 assists per game, while Carter Jr. is the leading rebounder at 7.9. Overall, Chicago has six players averaging double-figures in scoring, and as a team, the Bulls score 114.3 points while allowing 114.5.

Detroit comes into tonight with the winds of momentum at its back having won two in a row, after defeating Houston the other night, 113-100. Frank Jackson was the leading scorer for Detroit with 23 points. The Pistons two-game winning streak follows a four-game losing streak.

Jerami Grant is the Pistons' leading scorer with an average of 23.2 points per game, while center Mason Plumlee leads the way on the glass with an average of 9.5 rebounds. Delon Wright is the team leader in assists at 5.1.

Like the Bulls, Detroit also has six players averaging double figures, but overall, the team isn't as high-powered as Chicago, scoring 107.6 per game while surrendering 111.1.

A primary goal for the Bulls each time they take the floor is to get off to fast starts by being aggressive. When Chicago shows up hungry and consistently attacks the rim, good things frequently happen.

For the Bulls' offense to click the ball must freely jump from player-to-player. Quick and decisive passing always compels defenses to overreact and breakdown. Smart sharing of the ball also helps to free up driving lanes to the rim and generate open looks for shooters stationed outside. The most important thing Chicago must avoid is falling into the trap of slowing down and attempting to take on the defense one-on-one. Selfless sharing of the ball along with constant player movement in and out of the paint and all around the 3-point arc is critical to generating an efficient and effective offensive attack.

Having said all these things, Chicago must also focus on taking care of the ball, keeping turnovers to no more than a dozen a game. Winning teams don't panic and/or carelessly toss the ball away when an opponent applies pressure. So far this season the Bulls have been one of the NBA's worst turnover teams. That has to change, and today would be a great time to start.

Defensively, Chicago needs to continue doing a great job of running shooters off the 3-point line. So far, they've limited foes to just 11.4 treys a game, and a rather ordinary 34.7% make rate, ranking them in the Top 4 in the league in both categories.

Besides shutting down the arc, Chicago must also close off the paint, as well as command the boards. Doing so would give the Bulls plenty of opportunities to run out on the break for easy scores.

Collectively, Chicago also needs to hit the boards hard at both ends of the floor, limiting Detroit opportunities to post easy scores on put-backs and/or extend possessions where they can take two or three shots at the hoop.

If the Bulls show up sporting a scrappy attitude and storm out of the gate from the start, and sustain that intensity for all four quarters, they should be able to bounce back and head home to take on the NBA's top team, the Utah Jazz, tomorrow night at the United Center, with momentum on their side.