Before the final ten seconds of this game, I had chalked this one up as a complete disappointment. Almost regardless of outcome, this game showed major warning signs. Are the Bulls ready for the playoffs? I sure don't think so. Are they good enough to get out of the first round? Maybe. Overall, I was very displeased with this game. But in about ten seconds, that kind of changed. Because not only did the Bulls manage to win 88-82, they also moved back into third place in the East playoffs. The latter being highly important. But yeah, let's recap what happened during the game first.
In the first quarter, Reggie Jackson scored 12 while Andre Drummond overpowered Pau Gasol early and often. Drummond's success against Gasol should come as no surprise because pretty much any and all athletic big men give Pau fits. At this point in the season, that much has been established. Although, Gasol finished with 11 points of his own in the first quarter, so while he was a lost cause on defense and on the glass, he still provided points to offset his glaring flaws.
Chicago had a really strong second quarter showing though, holding Detroit to nine measly points. Some of the best defense we've seen all season out of Chicago -- well, in a 12-minute block anyway. All told, the Bulls went to break up 12. Jimmy Butler was attacking, getting to the free throw line. Pau, like I said, scored just enough to make you forget that he's killing you in other areas. An impressive first half of ball, for sure.
But if you'll recall, the last time Chicago played Detroit the Bulls went to halftime with a nearly 20-point lead, and then they wound up blowing that lead and lost by 16! So I never felt comfortable because, as we all know by now, the Bulls are as unpredictable as they come. Detroit -- who looked the part of a team who desperately needs the season to end -- came to life in the middle of the third quarter because they realized the Bulls aren't a very good basketball team.
The fourth quarter started with both teams tied at 59. Then a Butler jumper and layup -- the layup coming courtesy of a sweet Joakim Noah feed -- gave the Bulls some much needed momentum to start the final frame. From there, it was a dog fight. The teams traded baskets. The Pistons hit a few shots that were more than a little lucky, but those kinds of things happen when you can't put a garbage team away. Scrapping it out against a team like Detroit -- at this point in the season -- surely isn't an indication that the Bulls are playoff ready.
In the end, Aaron Brooks provided enough juice for the Bulls to eek past the Pistons. Although it's debatable whether Brooks should even be a part of closing lineups considering the offense is either run through one of Noah or Gasol, Brooks came up big tonight. Plus, Butler and Nikola Mirotic can handle the ball well enough to initiate the offense, which is another reason why Brooks shouldn't be closing. But alas, I guess it's not an overly big deal once Derrick Rose returns.
Anyway, yeah the Bulls (barely) won. Pau almost single-handily blew it after a terrible sequence where he forced a terrible jump shot with less than a minute to play, then immediately complained to the refs, which allowed Drummond to race down the floor for an uncontested two points. But then, because Pau is a loveable human being and exists to promote happiness, he threw down a huge put-back dunk for an and-one with 5.7 seconds left to put the Bulls up 86-82. It was a pretty sweet way to end an otherwise despicable game.
And like I said in the beginning, the Raptors lost tonight, which means this win puts the Bulls back in the three seed. So that's a really, really good thing.
For the game, Pau finished with 26 and 10. Jimmy finished with 18. Noah did that thing where he didn't score but still almost recorded a double-double in rebounds (9) and assists (10). For Detroit, Jackson almost recorded a triple-double in turnovers with 22 points, nine assists and eight TOs. Drummond grabbed 22 rebounds, swatted six shots and scored 14.
In the end, it was an ugly win. This game isn't going to sit well with me, at all. But I suppose I'll get over it because the Toronto loss helps. Chicago now gets Cleveland on Sunday -- oh joy, Sunday afternoon game! -- and they've won 17 in a row at home. So I'll take solace in tonight not ending in a total debacle. A win is a win.