The Pistons stayed within single digits of a Bulls team obviously being paced in the first game of three in three nights. Until the fourth quarter where Detroit managed the feat of logging more than 333% more turnovers than field goals, getting outscored 24-9 en route to the Bulls moving up to 8-2 with the 24-point win at the United Center.
Carlos Boozer (23 points on 9-for-13, eight rebounds, one block in 25:32) got open shots all night with defenders sagging off to help and Derrick Rose (22 points on 8-for-16, eight assists in 32:42) consistently found him after baiting the trap. Boozer and Rose both made the Pistons pay for over-committing every way they wanted to apply pressure and Rose was a killer when all attention wasn't given to him.
The Pistons, on the other hand, showed some strong defense with their aggression at times, but they couldn't compensate for what they lack in I.Q. (or experience) and athleticism. Rodney Stuckey out of the game didn't make matters easier and we got a good look at rookie point guard Brandon Knight (13 points on 6-for-10, five rebounds, four turnovers), another John Calipari boy, who's raw but showed promise. Greg Monroe (14 points on 5-for-9, ten rebounds, six assists) probably showed the most promise, playing most of the game at his more natural power forward slot, though he started at center.
And that's about the best I can about that "NBA team's" performance at the United Center on Monday evening.
The fact is that what we've seen in the Bulls' two meetings with the Pistons has to make you wonder how they're as good as 2-7 on the season so far. Or maybe they're out to prove dead clocks are actually right twice a
year day. Sad because I do really like their coach, Knight, and Monroe; but.... NAAAAAH, it's the Pistons, so it's lovely they're bad, am I right?!?
- The Bulls weren't great offensively. They only shot 45.9% from the floor and 3-for-18 (18.8%) on 3s for a very average .480 eFG%. The ball moved well and smart though, as 19 of their 34 baskets were assisted (six of the first seven) and the turnovers stayed down (ten).
- When awful offense is your best defense. When you have yourself saying that Ronnie Brewer is doing a hell of a job on Ben Gordon (11 points on 4-for-8, four turnovers in 27:00), that's one thing. When 15 minutes later, you're impressed by the job Kyle Korver is doing on him, you have to hit the smelling salts and realize this is exactly why Gordon doesn't get real playing time on a good team: he's too small and can't handle the ball for someone so small to be on a professional basketball court. Credit Brewer for awesome ball denial and Korver for staying aggressive, but if opponents' best defenders are denying Gordon the ball, Gordon's team has serious problems; and if that team doesn't have serious problems, Gordon doesn't see the floor much.
The Pistons came into the game 29th in ORtg (96.1) and 26 in eFG% (.448), according to Basketball-Reference.com. The Bulls came in with the third-best DRtg (97.6) and in the top ten of eFG% (.465) and ORB% allowed (.248), so the result was about as expected with Detroit shooting 39.4% from the floor for an abysmal .401 eFG%, but only getting slightly out-rebounded 41-37 -- grabbing ten offensive boards to the Bulls' 29 defensive.
- When a vapid game gets comedic. Detroit shot 6-for-20 (30%) in the second quarter and the fourth quarter needed some Benny Hill or calliope music, as Detroit committed ten turnovers while only scoring three buckets, included passing to complete air at least twice in charitable efforts to give souvenirs to fans. Jason Maxiell even managed to not brick one, but two (!!!) dunks.
- Starters got plenty of rest. The Bench Mob got the call for well over half the second quarter and the starters began getting pulled around the 4:00 mark of the fourth quarter. Richard Hamilton (groin) sat again. Rose and Luol Deng (four points on 2-for-12, five rebounds in 33:48) were the only starters to play 30 minutes, while Korver (eight points on 2-for-7, one block in 32:08), Taj Gibson (nine points on 2-for-7, 5-for-6 on FTs, three rebounds, one block in 20:33), and Omer Asik (zero points, seven rebounds, five fouls in 21:53) all received significant playing time as a very strong defensive unit. Brian Scalabrine and Jimmy Butler even got out there for 2:43 and each got a bucket.
Point: no Bulls were pushed to the bone in this one.
- Boozer took A LOT of jumpers. He came into the game shooting 43% on long-2s, but hit 7-of-9 Monday night. They weren't bad looks, but 11 of his 13 shots were jumpers at least ten feet from the basket.
- You just have to love the weeks Brewer's put together to open the season. After scoring 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting in his fifth start for Rip, he's now shooting 53.4% from the field. He missed his only 3-point attempt, bringing his 3P% down to .750; but his eFG% continues to rise, currently at .586 on the year. And the defense is just incredible; to play so aggressive, deny the ball, be a ball hawk, and challenge every shot without fouling is one of the most impressive feat you can get from a perimeter player. The offense is a bonus and it's paying off. (Stats via Basketball-Reference.com)
- The Bulls scored 14 on the Pistons' 18 TOs, 18 fastbreak points in the game, and Tom Thibodeau wants them running more. Since he got here, Thibs has stressed to the team and consistently in press that he wants the team using its defense to create efficient offense: by running the floor on defensive rebounds and turnovers. After the game, he even said he wants the Bulls pushing the pace more after made baskets on the other end, implying the Bulls missed opportunities to catch the Pistons' napping and that's becoming a pattern. I haven't noticed it so much and the Bulls expend so much energy on defense, it doesn't surprise me, but it's something to look for.
- The Bulls were outscored in the paint 28-22. An impressive shutdown by Chicago's interior defense, but only 11 trips to the line in the first three quarters and 22 paint points on the game against a Detroit interior that isn't very intimidating says something. Whether it was pacing for the schedule, laziness, or conserving energy for defense, I can't tell you, but do the math and that's a lot of jumpshots for a Bulls team that's usually bigger than everyone else. [The Bulls took 35 of their 74 shots at least 16 feet from the basket for a .500 eFG% and were only 6-for-13 at the rim. --A.S.]
- Your guess on Rip coming back is as good as mine. He's missed five of the last six games. He's dressing, but he can't get on the floor. The Bulls are built well -- deep enough to wins battles of attrition and stay healthy. Its most important that he's on in March and beyond, but the reps with the teammates need to be there. Hopefully he's in the lineup during this three-game stint.
Monday was the Bulls' fifth game in the last seven days. They're 4-1 in the first five games of nine games in 12 days. They travel to play the Timberwolves in Minnesota Tuesday and come back home to host the Wizards on Wednesday.