Rip Hamilton had a timely return from his two-game absence due to injury: playing in his former home for nine years in Detroit and looking great doing so. Hamilton got a couple late buckets to get his scoring mark up to 14 in 9 shot attempts, but was even more impressive to me was his merely 3-point first half, as it was coupled with 4 assists.
The Bulls were running Hamilton off screens consistently when he was in the game. The Pistons strategy was to overplay him on the catch, and Rip made them pay. The Pistons are just starting to try out this defense thing with new coach Lawrence Frank, so while the initial move got the ball out of Rip's hands worked, they were not disciplined enough to rotate futher. Time and again, Rip would immediately dump it to the now-unguarded inside player.
Those inside men did the job tonight, Noah seemed more settled when he made his moves (though he had 5 turnovers, so maybe my eyes deceive me). And while it's still unnerving when Boozer doesn't show explosiveness when he catches low, he was very effective as a scoring threat tonight, able to post up the more finesse Piston PFs to collapse the defense. When that threat is presented, he can then fit in well with Hamilton and the rest of the offense as a willing and able passer. He also had a nice night shooting from distance, his last few putting the game away for good and towards his final line of 9-15 for 19 points.
And perhaps the best part of Rip-to-Booz/Noah was that Derrick Rose merely had to initiate the action, not dominate it. If we're just counting shots for each and the efficiency of them, getting the ball to Rip so often isn't the best strategy. But to have the opportunity to simply not make Rose work so hard every time down the court is invaluable, and a new dynamic Hamilton has brought for much of his initial season with the Bulls. Rose was able to still assert his game in spots, especially in the 2nd half after Rodney Stuckey exited the game with a groin injury and he was matched up on smaller guards like Brandon Knight or Will Bynum.
So, overall, the offense was able to exploit the Pistons undisciplined aggression on traps through patience and ball movement, not only creating open looks but actually hitting them. Thus while the Pistons did show some life at points at the expense of some Bulls fatigue, the Bulls shooting always had them beyond double digits. Outside of an uncharacteristically poor night from Deng (and he didn't crack 40 minutes!), the shots were falling: Boozer was mentioned, but there was also Brewer's 4-6 and Gibson's 5-9.
At other times the Bulls exposed when the Pistons simply got lazy, and at one point I thought Frank was going to try and tackle one of his players he stormed on the court so furiously. Pretty strange, in contrast to the Bulls, to see a team barely even to the point of starting to figure it out.
Game 2 of the John Lucas experience was a mixed bag, though maybe as good as it can get. Lucas hit two three-pointers which was a huge factor in at least counteracting the obvious deficiencies he has on defense. The Pistons attacked the diminutive Lucas immediately, and he did look overmatched physically, but if he makes a couple plays on offense it helps, as it did tonight. Lucas didn't play in the second half until the final minute.
Which means Rose played a lot, though just under 40 minutes isn't outlandish for him, considering the schedule it'll be a constant point of intrigue. Especially strange to see him and all of the other starters on the floor after a timeout at 2 minutes left and the Bulls up 16. I get the hesitancy to use Lucas and the game wasn't really in hand until very late, but just something to watch.
Another drawback to keeping players in late is the possibility of getting an unnecessary foul, and the Pistons had three such occurrences late, and Rose was pretty shaken up after his incident though he stayed in the game. [it was reported afterwards that Rose was in obvious pain, but x-rays were negative -ed.]
The Pistons have slight PFs, and short Centers, so the shotblocking of Noah, Gibson, and Asik was a factor all night.
My guy Ben Gordon shot really poorly 2-10 in 28 minutes. I have to admit as long as the Bulls stayed ahead I would've have minded a brief run by him just to take some of the sneer out of Neil Funk's tone. To be fair to the blind one, the Pistons are an easy team to be disgusted by.