The Chicago Bulls were reeling, losers of four of their last five and needing to get over the emotional hurdle of seeing Joakim Noah ruled out for the year. The Pistons were coming off arguably the most impressive win of the NBA season, bodying the full strength Warriors by 18 points in their last game. Detroit had already beaten the Bulls twice this year. This had all the makings of a game that could have turned out poorly for the Bulls.
Instead, Pau Gasol turned in one of his best games of the season, Derrick Rose was able to get his offense going and the Bulls earned a hard fought 111-101 victory on the road.
Gasol went off for a season-high 31 points, knocking down 13-of-18 shots from the field. He also added 12 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. He burned Andre Drummond on mid-range jumpers throughout the game and the Pistons never felt the need to adjust their coverages.
Pau shot 9/11 from mid-range today. #Sustainable— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) January 18, 2016
Rose was also very good, going for 20 points and four assists on 9-of-17 shooting, including two clutch buckets in the final three minutes. Perhaps quietly, Rose is now averaging 17.2 points over his last seven games.
It was a performance that included a couple vintage D. Rose drives, like this hoop-and-the-harm in the third quarter:
The Bulls were clearly the better team from three-point range, hitting 9-of-21 shots from deep (42.9 percent) while Detroit shot just 5-of-26 (19.2 percent) from behind the arc. The Bulls again had no answer for Andre Drummond inside (13 points, 16 rebounds), but Detroit got away from him in the second half, instead settling for jumpers from Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova.
The Bulls, who were out-rebounded by 12 in this game, and still have Drummond looming as a matchup nightmare should these two teams eventually meet in a playoff series. At the moment, the Bulls are the No. 3 seed and Detroit is No. 7, so it's possible. For now, that's a problem for another day.
It was good to see Doug McDermott (3-of-4) and Nikola Mirotic (2-of-2) get hot from three-point range. It was strange to see Bobby Portis get buried once again, especially with Noah out. Portis did not play in the second half and finished with only three minutes. It's clear Fred Hoiberg is still playing around with rotations.
The schedule is about to get real for the Bulls. They've got Golden State at home on Wednesday, at Boston on Friday, at Cleveland on Saturday, and back home vs. the Heat on Monday. This team has been streaky one way or another all season, so here's hoping this can be the start of a positive streak. At this point, we'll probably all need to see it to believe it.