Keys to the Game: Bulls at Wizards (12.31.20)

The Bulls and the Washington Wizards close out 2020 with the second of a two-game series in our Nation's Capital this afternoon. Fans can catch all the action live on TV and radio (NBC Sports Chicago / WSCR-AM 670) beginning at 4:00 PM.

Chicago notched its first victory of the 2020-21 campaign Tuesday night against the Wizards on their home floor, 115-107. The Bulls' record now stands at 1-3, while Washington is winless at 0-4.

In Tuesday's victory, Zach LaVine led Chicago's attack with a team-high 23 points, including scoring nine straight during the third quarter, while second-year guard Coby White chipped in 18 points to push the Bulls into the win column. Washington's Russell Westbrook, who sat out DC's previous game to rest up, had his third straight triple-double on the season with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists.

Washington's other All-Star, Bradley Beal, led all scorers with 29 points, while Wizards super-sub, Davis Bertans, came off the bench to add 20. The Wizards shot a miserable 10-for-37 (27%) from behind the 3-point arc, missing 10 of 11 long shots during the second quarter when Chicago took command of the game.

All-in-all, it was a solid team effort from the Bulls, who besides LaVine and White, had five other players post double-digits in scoring led by Otto Porter Jr. with 16, Garrett Temple and rookie Patrick Williams at 12 apiece, followed by Tomas Satoransky and Wendell Carter Jr. clocking in with 10 each.

The only sour note for Chicago came early in the third quarter when starting power forward Lauri Markkanen came out of the game after reaggravating a calf injury he suffered Sunday against Golden State. Markkanen's availability for today's game is still up in the air as of this writing.

As for what to look for this afternoon, the Bulls must continue to work on trusting one another at both ends of the floor. Offensively, Chicago must freely share the ball, bouncing it from player-to-player and from side-to-side in order to force Washington to expend extra energy on defense. The Bulls cannot fall into the bad habit of standing around and allowing the ball to stick in any one player's hands for too long. Constant movement in and out of the paint by players and the ball is crucial in establishing a free-flowing offensive rhythm.

As for defending and hopefully slowing Washington's high-powered dynamic duo of Westbrook and Beal, Chicago will need to stay focused and poised, and do a great job of communicating all game long. A primary goal has to be to keep Westbrook and Beal far from the hoop and out of the paint as much as possible. Beal is a terrific sniper from 3-point range, whereas Westbrook is at his best running downhill and making his way to the basket, finding open teammates on the wings if he can't finish at the rim. Chicago's defenders must always keep an eye out for Beal, as well as Bertans hovering on the arc. Every 3-point shot they attempt must be contested, otherwise if left alone, they can burn out all the lights on the scoreboard and make New Year's Eve a frustrating day for the Bulls and their fans.