Keys to the Game – Bulls vs and 76ers (10.29.22)

The Chicago Bulls (3-3) return home to the United Center to take on the Philadelphia 76ers (2-4) in the first of four games slated between the two this season. Tonight is also the second game of a back-to-back set for both Chicago and Philadelphia. The Bulls came up five points short to the Spurs in San Antonio last night, 129-124, while the 76ers visited Toronto and knocked-off the Raptors, 112-90, without the help of All-NBA center Joel Embiid.

Not only is tonight the second of a back-to-back for both teams, but it also closes the book on a very busy week for the Bulls and 76ers. Tonight’s contest will be the fourth in six days for both teams, and the third of a four-game road trek for the 76ers.

Over the last handful of years Philadelphia has dominated the Bulls, winning 11 in a row, including a four-game sweep last season. The last time Chicago came out on top was back on March 6, 2019, at the United Center, with a 120-106 victory.

After tonight, the Bulls travel to Brooklyn to meet up with the Nets on Tuesday, and then come right back home to take on the Charlotte Hornets at the United Center on Wednesday.

As for this evening’s contest against the 76ers, here are a couple of things to watch (7:00 pm CST tipoff – NBC Sports Chicago):

The Bulls come into tonight having split its first six games and are aiming to bounce back after falling in San Antonio last night. DeMar DeRozan led the way with 33 points on 11 of 20 shooting, Coby White added 19 points, while Andre Drummond chipped in with 17 points, 14 rebounds and three steals off the bench. As a team, the Bulls shot 47 percent from the field and nine of 27 from the 3-point line, but once again they suffered another slow start to the game and couldn’t find an answer for the Spurs’ balanced offense in which they Dealed 37 assists and had seven players finish in double figures in scoring.

Much like the Spurs, for the Bulls to succeed Chicago must play with pace, relentlessly attacking the paint and finding its way to the basket and free throw line. In their last three games, Chicago has done a pretty solid job of doing just that. The Bulls have scored a combined 364 points in three consecutive games. They’ve done it by repeatedly driving the ball deep into the paint taking the action to the hoop. Combined, Chicago has outscored its last three opponents in the paint 144-130, and from the charity stripe, 69-50. The Bulls have also outshot them .484 (132-273) to .441 (120-272).

It’s essential Chicago crisply moves the ball from player-to-player, skipping it inside and out as well as from one side of the 3-point arc to the other. The ball cannot end up in one player’s hands for too long while everyone else stands and watches. Nonstop player movement, along with quick, decisive passing is absolutely vital.

After sitting last night in San Antonio, Zach LaVine is likely to return to the lineup, which should be a major boost for Chicago. The two-time All-Star has played in only three of the first six games, but when he’s been on the floor, he’s been really good, averaging 23.3 points, while shooting .444 (20-45) from the field and an eye – popping .579 (11-19) from distance, as well as being money in the bank from the charity stripe at .826 (19-23).

Philadelphia has yet to really hit their stride this season, but they come to town having won two of their last three after blowing past the Raptors last night, 112-90. Tyrese Maxey drained nine 3-pointers to lead the way with a career-high 44 points, eight rebounds and four assists on 15 of 20 shooting, Tobias Harris and De’Anthony Melton each scored 13 points while James Harden chipped in with 11 points. As a team, the 76ers shot 52 percent from the field and 16 of 38 from the 3-point line as they took control with a 37-point explosion in the second quarter, before pulling away as they held Toronto to just 20 points in the fourth quarter to make it a blowout.

Center Joel Embiid is off to another All-Star start, averaging 27.6 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He scored 31 points Wednesday but sat out yesterday in Toronto. The guess here is he was simply resting on the opening of a back-to-back and will be on the floor tonight against the Bulls. And why not, as last season Embiid twice recorded 40+ points and collected double-figure rebounds in three of the four games against Chicago. All-in-all, the seventh-year center averaged 32.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists, shooting .529 from the field and .471 from the arc in the series.

Defensively, Chicago must come into tonight’s game with a hardnosed, physical mindset, surrounding and banging Embiid whenever he looks to set up down low in the paint. The Bulls must also quickly run shooters off the 3-point arc, otherwise it could be a very long night for the home team. Chicago has to do an excellent of communicating with one another and be ready to rotate and jump passing lanes to thwart the Sixers explosive offense while at the same time ignite the Bulls’ transition game.

The Bulls are going to need huge efforts at both ends of the floor from their star players, as well as finding an unsung hero or two to beat this very talented Philadelphia team.

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