Five Bulls scored in double figures on a night that saw the team assist on more than 75% of its baskets.
One night after one of their worst closing-minutes collapses of the entire season, the Chicago Bulls rallied through abscences from both their starting and backup centers to blow out the Detroit Pistons at home to the tune of a 117-95 win. Jimmy Butler scored only 16 points on six shots over the course of the entire game, but double-figure scoring performances from four other Bulls combined with some of the best team-ball movement of their season proved to be more than enough for Chicago to overwhelm Detroit.
This game’s broadcast started out with a lengthy tribute to the late former Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause. Then a mariachi band performed the United States National Anthem, and afterwards the starting lineup announcements for both teams were read in Spanish. Because of the one game suspension issued to Robin Lopez this afternoon in the wake of his fight with Serge Ibaka last night, four of the Bulls’ five starters hailed from different countries (Mirotic from former Yugoslavia, Zipser from Germany, Lauvergne from France, and Butler/Rondo from USA). Dwyane Wade came out of the locker room sporting a short-sleeve blazer from the bench. It was about as unusual of a beginning to a Bulls game as one could possibly imagine.
As for the game itself, one would have expected Andre Drummond and the Pistons to capitalize on the Bulls’ sudden lack of depth at the center position early on, but quite the opposite happened. Though the first six minutes of the game featured eight lead changes thanks to Chicago’s inability to protect the rim, the Bulls would rip off a 12-0 run over the next three minutes fueled by Nikola Mirotic. In predictable Bullsian fashion, the Bulls proceeded to allow Jon Leuer to go on a personal 8-0 run to trim the lead, but the team then rallied in the final minute for a 7-2 run of their own that allowed Chicago to conclude the first quarter with a 32-23 lead. Jimmy Butler tallied five assists through the first twelve minutes of the game.
Not much of note happened in the second quarter other than Jerian Grant finally making his return to the rotation, and his stint would be best described as “meh.” Grant scored four points and made a nice assist to Mirotic but also missed both of his three point attempts and continued to play poor defense. The Pistons contined to move the ball well and got a little hot from the perimeter, which allowed six of their players to finish with six or more points prior to the half. Fortunately, the Bulls managed to respond with enough timely baskets throughout the period to stem the bleeding whenever the Pistons got within striking distance, and as a result Chicago managed to conclude the first half up 59-53. The 56% the Bulls shot from the field was their highest shooting percentage they have posted in a first half in the last 21 games.
The Bulls kicked off the second half with an 11-2 run over the first three minutes that allowed them to build their lead up to fifteen points, and from there they pretty much ran over the Pistons the rest of the way. Mirotic stayed hot for the entire second half and scored in very dynamic fashion on an array of threes and drives to the rim. He would go on to lead the Bulls in scoring with 28 points on 12-15 shooting (4-6 from 3-PT range). Paul Zipser had one of his best games of the entire season, scoring 15 points on 6-9 shooting from the field. But the biggest surprise of the evening was by far Joffrey Lauvergne, whom scored a personal season-high 17 points after being thrust into the starting lineup due to the massive hole created at center via the aforementioned events in Toronto last night.
These performances would not have materialized were it not for a spectacular team-wide passing clinic spearheaded by Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo. Those two combined to put up 21 of the Bulls’ 36 assists on the evening, and Chicago finished the game with only 11 of their makes not occurring as the result of a teammate’s pass. In a season marred by inconsistency—not to mention coming off of an awful streak-shattering fourth quarter collapse the day prior—it was extremely refreshing to witness the Bulls play one of their most beautiful offensive contests of the season, amazing considering Butler took a mere six shots.
The win ties the Bulls for the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference standings with the Pistons, and now both teams sit a mere game out of the final spot in their conference Playoffs behind the red-hot Miami Heat. Chicago will look to keep the good momentum going when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, the team they now have their longest active winning streak against.