In a game that wasn’t supposed to happen until the second half of the season, the Detroit Pistons found themselves unexpectedly traveling to the United Center to take on the Bulls. Detroit was supposed to play San Antonio on Tuesday but the game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing within the Spurs’ organization. The Pistons were scheduled to play Dallas on Wednesday, but severe weather conditions in Texas forced yet another postponement. Meanwhile, the Bulls had planned to be in Charlotte on Wednesday, but that game had to be postponed due to COVID-19 concerns within the Hornets’ organization.
Prior to tonight’s contest, the Pistons were coming off back-to-back wins for the first time since January and looked to push their winning streak to three games while the Bulls attempted to maintain the momentum of their overtime win against the Pacers on Monday. Chicago had center, Wendell Carter Jr., back in the mix for the second consecutive game after he missed nearly a month due to a quad contusion. Dating back to 11/1/19, the Bulls have now won five straight games against the Pistons.
Zach LaVine continues to remind us why he deserves to be in this year’s All-Star game, finishing the night with 37 points in 35 minutes. He was supported by solid efforts from Patrick Williams and Wendell Carter Jr. For Detroit, Jerami Grant did his best to keep his team in the game as the lead slipped away, finishing the night with a career-high 43 points.
The Bulls started the game with a decent offensive rhythm and good ball movement but minimal effort on the defensive end. It quickly appeared as if Stacey King was right when he proclaimed this to be a potential trap game in his pre-game analysis. Still, the Bulls ended the first quarter being down only eight points. In the second quarter, however, things quickly took a turn for the worse. While the defensive effort improved, the team went ice cold from the field and, by the 8:16 mark, had failed to score a single point.
LaVine, at a time his team actually needed him to be selfish and dominate the ball, seemed more intent on getting his teammates involved and before you could blink, the Bulls were down by as many as 25 points. Offensively, the team looked completely out of sync, turning the ball over at a high clip and, at times, looking unsure of themselves. They finished the quarter with only 16 points, shooting 36% from the field and 21% from downtown, forcing themselves to have to climb out of an 18-point hole to start the second half. They did, however, end the half with back-to-back solid defensive efforts on successive Detroit possessions, foreshadowing what unfolded in the second half.
The Tale of Two Halves
Coach Donovan sent a loud message when he benched Williams, Carter Jr., and White to start the third quarter. In the first half, both Carter Jr. and White finished with a -13 rating while Williams was -18. This defensive effort was clearly unacceptable to Donovan and, for the first seven minutes, he opted for a more veteran lineup which included Temple, Valentine, and Young. Donovan pushed all the right buttons as the Bulls came roaring out of the gate, led by an ultra-aggressive LaVine who attacked the rim at every opportunity. The team’s defensive performance also kicked into next gear, with high effort, timely rotations, and active hands as the team cut a significant Detroit lead down to only three.
Bulls Complete Comeback
With LaVine on the bench to start the fourth quarter, Patrick Williams stepped up to lead the team until LaVine could return, playing with energy and hitting multiple clutch shots. A goaltending call on a layup by Temple gave the team its first lead since early in the opening frame. Coby White, who finished the night with only eight points, knocked down a big three-pointer, giving the Bulls a four-point lead with only 45 seconds remaining. Grant would answer for Detroit with a three of his own, only to be matched by Williams on the opposite end. With the Bulls up two, LaVine split a pair of free throws, opening the door for the Pistons to send the game to overtime. Luckily, Detroit’s final shot fell short and the Bulls held on to claim their 12th win on the year, 105-102.
What’s On Tap Next
The Bulls (12-15) head to Philadelphia (19-10) to play the 76ers for the first time this year on Friday night. The 76ers currently sit atop the Eastern Conference. As always, you can catch up on the Bulls all with articles, analysis, and podcasts from Bulls On Tap.