In a weird hour-early Easter Sunday start time, the Pistons jumped on the Bulls to a 14-2 lead. I had put Detroit on the tanking side of the league's ledger. However, for them, playing their young players actually means more time for Andre Drummond, who returned over the weekend after almost 2 months out. With him and Monroe up front (and a big first stint for Rodney Stuckey), the Pistons actually did pose some issues early in the game, and it continued in a first half where Detroit scored 57 points on 60% shooting.
But it did feel inevitable, even without the same players the Bulls have been missing the last week, that they would tighten their defense, catch the Pistons, and let them Detroit themselves yet again. And while it wasn't a real momentous wave back towards a blowout, the Bulls took a late lead and took care of business. The margin is one only after a garbage three-pointer by Detroit as time expired.
This is the first in a stretch of a really easy remaining schedule for the Bulls, so lets hope this continues, even if it's a bit gross.
The Bulls were propelled by a season-high of 40 FT attempts. Unfortunately they shot under 68% on the day, but a line of Luol Deng's 11-17 isn't so bad considering his total effort tonight: 28 points on 18 shots, and continuing his hot (and willing) shooting from three with 3-8 tonight. Jimmy Butler had a poor man's version of Deng's game, with 16 points on 7 shots (and 9 FTAs himself). Butler also had 5 steals, and between he and Deng they really abused Detroit's lack of quality wings.
With the Pistons still having a bit of a lopsided roster, the Bulls could get away with avoiding Boozer (since he was not good) and Nazr (who'd been playing well recently! but 0 points in 17 minutes tonight) and running with more small-ball lineups. This meant a lot of Deng and Jimmy together, but also some two-PG lineups, and Daquean Cook getting 25 minutes.
The Pistons countered late not by relying on their two young bigs (Drummond did slow down and horrifically airballed two straight FTs, and might be on a minutes restriction) and instead there was a heavy dose of Charlie Villenueva. So maybe they were tanking after all. Charlie V was 4-13 from the floor, and had several horrible showings of lacking defensive awareness, some tying directly to Deng's 4 offensive rebounds on the night.
The Bulls have now won 18 straight against the Pistons, so it was hard not to be confident that the Bulls were eventually going to get this one.