Keys To The Game: Bulls at Wizards (3.29.22)

The Bulls were defeated by the New York Knicks in a physical game in Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

Chicago got to the free throw line 33 times, getting over the hump with one of their recent struggles but saw another show up as their bench production was poor.

At this point in the season --with the playoff standings changing everyday--every game matters immensely. The Washington Wizards still have a long-shot chance of making the postseason play-in tournament but they are likely a draft lottery-bound team.

This only adds more pressure for the Bulls as they simply cannot afford to lose back-to-back games to teams outside of the playoff race with seeding being so volatile down the stretch.

Continue getting into the paint on offense

Chicago's offense has been sputtering as of late but they saw some success against the Knicks in getting to the free throw line. They got to the free throw line 33 times, led by DeMar DeRozan's 12 and Zach LaVine's 10.

Both of the Bulls stars are, obviously, excellent jump shooters, but the team as a whole functions at their best when that duo is getting downhill and into the paint, creating looks for themselves and more importantly, for others.

Over the last 10 games the Wizards rank 24th in defensive rating, a far cry from the Knicks, who have been a top-10 defense over the that same span and played like it on Monday.

If the Bulls get into the paint they should be able to generate easy offense in Washington.

Create bench production

The Bulls--whether it is by a lineup or rotation change from Billy Donovan, or someone stepping up--simply have to get some sort of production from their bench unit.

This will become less of a concern as the playoffs start and your top seven-to-nine players play large minute totals. But as the regular season winds down, the bench is needed to help out a starting unit that needs to conserve some energy for the stretch run.

Coby White struggled mightily from the outside against New York (0-of-5 from 3-point range), Tristan Thompson was 1-of-3 from the field and Javonte Green was solid from the FT line but was a -5 in 14 minutes on the floor.

Someone will need to step up in D.C.

Focus on Kristaps Porzingis on defense

Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis was acquired by the Wizards at the trade deadline and has been solid for a team stuck between the draft lottery and the play-in tournament race.

Porzingis is averaging 21 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and over a block per game over the last 10 games.

His 3-point shooting has been poor over that stretch (24% from 3-point range) so Chicago needs to be mindful of over helping on his 3-point shots.

Closing out too hard on Porzingis would open up driving lanes, which is dangerous now that he is now a willing passer. If Chicago underestimates Porzingis or the Wizards, they will be in for a tough game on Tuesday night.