The Bulls and the Pistons each beat the Miami Heat last week; tonight, they face each other at the United Center. The Pistons enter at 9-10 overall holding down the No. 5 seed in the East, while the Bulls have moved into the No. 7 seed in the conference at 8-9. These two teams last met a week and a half ago, with the Bulls coasting to a 20-point victory in Detroit.
Luol Deng scored 27 points in that Nov. 27 win at the Palace, but his status tonight is in jeopardy. Deng is a 'game-time decision' with a sore left calf. Of course, the Bulls had to be weird about it:
Strange scene after shootaround. Thibs initially didn't reveal Deng's injury. Then Noah said Deng may not play because of an Achilles injury— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) December 7, 2013
Then Thibs comes back out to address reporters for second time (first time I can remember him doing that) to say Deng has a calf injury.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) December 7, 2013
It's unfortunate timing because Deng is currently playing some of the best basketball of his career, scoring more than 20 points in all six games the Bulls have played since Derrick Rose's latest knee injury. The Bulls are also creeping up a very busy part of the schedule, with a stretch of four games in five days starting on Tuesday against the Bucks.
Despite that recent blowout at the Palace, taking down the Pistons is no easy task, particularly if Deng can't go. Detroit enters at No. 13 in offense and No. 18 in defense (the Bulls are No. 24 in offense and No. 4 in defense). It'll be a game that pits strength on strength: both teams have active, surging front courts known for dominating the glass.
The Pistons are No. 1 in offensive rebound rate and No. 4 in overall rebounding percentage. The Bulls are in No. 2 in offensive rebound rate and No. 2 in overall rebounding percentage. The big worry for the Bulls is 20-year-old Detroit center Andre Drummond, who has become one of the most dominating physical forces in the league. Drummond is currently posting a 23.77 PER, good for No. 10 in the NBA. Drummond leagues the league in field goal percentage (64.6 percent from the field), leads the league in dunks, is fourth in rebounds per game, and is dead-last in the NBA in free throw percentage (37 percent).
Taking care of the ball be paramount for the Bulls as well, as the Pistons are leading the league in steals per game. One thing the Bulls should find is some open looks from three. The Pistons allow the tenth most attempts per game from three, with opponents shooting 37.2 percent, the ninth highest mark in the league.
In other Bulls news, Jimmy Butler is "actually pretty close" to returning. He hasn't taken contact in practice yet, but at least he's getting closer.