Keys to the Game: Bulls vs. Wizards (02.09.19)

The Bulls and the Washington Wizards meet for the second time this season, but the first at the United Center. Back on December 28th Chicago defeated Washington, 101-92, at Capital One Arena in our nation’s capital. All five Bulls starters scored in double figures, led by Zach LaVine’s 24. Lauri Markkanen (14 points / 14 rebounds) and rookie Wendell Carter Jr (17 points/ 13 rebounds) also recorded double-doubles. All-Star guard Bradley Beal led Washington with a game-high 34 points.

For both the Bulls and the Wizards tonight wraps up a back-to-back set of games, as Chicago played in Brooklyn yesterday while Washington took on Cleveland in DC. The two also came together to pull off a significant trade this week, with the Bulls sending forwards Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis to the Wiz for Otto Porter Jr. The Wizards then conducted a second player swap just before the NBA mandated deadline the other day, shipping Markieff Morris and a future second round pick to New Orleans for veteran wing sniper Wesley Johnson.

Porter joins the Bulls averaging 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists this season. He’s a career 39 percent 3-point shooter who connected on better than 43 percent of his deep attempts each of the previous two seasons. The hope is that he and the above-mentioned Lauri Markkanen can transform into an intimidating frontline for many years to come. Markkanen, who currently is in his second season, is averaging 17.9 points and 8.1 rebounds.

Zach LaVine is also enjoying a terrific statistical year, leading the Bulls in scoring with a career-best 22.9 points per game, along with 4.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, shooting 45.5 percent from the field overall. Heading into the weekend LaVine had scored 20+ points in six of his last eight games and has posted 34 games of 20 or more points overall. He’s one of only three players in the Eastern Conference to accomplish such a feat.

Prior to last night’s contests both the Bulls and Wizards have been struggling to win games of late, as Chicago had lost two-in-a-row and six of eight, while Washington had lost three straight and six of their last eight, as well.

In order to end up on top this evening the Bulls are need to overpower and out-execute Washington at both ends of the floor. Offensively they must keep the ball moving, getting everyone involved in the action. The Bulls have to make the ball skip from side-to-side and from player-to-player to force the Wizards to scramble to defend both the perimeter and down in the paint. To that end Chicago’s primary guards (Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine), as well as both Porter and Markkanen, must display an aggressive mindset, and be willing to attack the rim at every opportunity.

As a team, the Bulls also need take command of the boards and look to speed up the pace by getting out on the break as often as possible in order to post easy scores before Washington can set up defensively.

From the opening tip until the final buzzer, Chicago has to commit to outhustling the Wizards in every way imaginable.