Entering Friday night's game against the lowly Pistons, the Bulls hadn't lost to a team under .500 since the debacle in Sacramento on Feb. 3. With this in mind, I figured the Bulls would wallop the Pistons at the United Center to continue the quest for 50 wins.
Apparently the Bulls came into the game with the same mindset, because they sleepwalked through an ugly first half that saw them get down 18 at the break. But in true Bullsian fashion, they roared back, using a superb effort on both sides of the ball to nab a 106-98 victory. The win was the Bulls' seventh straight, and thanks to the Knicks somehow going into Toronto and beating the Raptors, Chicago is now the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls got behind early thanks to some generally sloppy play on both ends, poor shooting and a lot of Andre Drummond. The Bulls' offense generated plenty of quality looks in the first half, especially from deep, but they just didn't fall. Meanwhile, Drummond grabbed seemingly every available rebound, which kept the Bulls from getting second chance opportunities. Drummond had 19 boards in the first half and would finish with 26 on the night to go along with 26 points.
The second half was a completely different story. The Bulls' offense started to cook, with Kirk Hinrich and Carlos Boozer looking as aggressive as I've ever seen them. Boozer's baskets early in the third quarter seemed relatively insignificant at the time, but they helped keep the Bulls within striking distance. Then Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy started to heat up, and the Bulls got to within 10 by the start of the fourth quarter.
Then all hell broke loose. With the Pistons running primarily a reserve group and the Bulls using one of their main fourth-quarter units, Chicago predictably erased the 10-point deficit in less than four minutes and blew past Detroit to secure the win. The contributions were aplenty, with D.J. Augustin, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler doing the bulk of the offensive work during a 20-3 run to start the quarter. The Bulls outscored the Pistons 36-18 in the final frame, and this type of fourth-quarter dominance has been extremely familiar over the past few months.
The Bulls wound up scoring 68 points in the second half, shooting 61.5 percent after shooting just 38.1 percent in the first half. Meanwhile, the Pistons shot just 41.5 percent in the second half after shooting over 51 percent in the first half, and the only reason it was even that high in the second half was because of some late Drummond dunks.
Augustin was ridiculous once again, leading the Bulls with 24 points off the bench while also adding six assists. The high this dude is playing on is just crazy right now. It's truly unbelievable that this is the same guy who sucked so hard with the Pacers last year (sidebar: the Pacers got WORKED by the Dwyane Wade-less Heat and Roy Hibbert had one rebound in 34 minutes).
Boozer had a nice game in his typical first-and-third stint, notching 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Gibson was an absolute monster in the second half, throwing down dunks, blocking shots and just being awesome. 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting for the guy who should be the Sixth Man of the Year. Joakim Noah had a double-double, only it was with rebounds (12) and assists (10).
Games like this are why the Bulls have been so successful in the regular season when both healthy and undermanned in the Thibodeau era. Even when they struggle early, we can usually count on them to rally and often overwhelm lesser teams with their constant effort. When teams go with reserve groups to start fourth quarters, Thibs has his closers out there, and the Bulls often ride the momentum for the rest of the game. Who knows if this success will carry over into the playoffs, but with the Pacers looking like absolute garbage, an Eastern Conference Finals appearance is looking like a legitimate possibility.