Looking at the schedule for the Chicago Bulls’ first five games, it wouldn’t have been a hot take to expect this team to be 4-1 at the end of it. Outside of hosting the Toronto Raptors for their home opener, the Bulls faced four rebuilding teams in Memphis, Charlotte, New York, and Cleveland. Chicago talked a big game about making the playoffs, and stacking wins early and kickstarting some momentum would have really helped when trying to accomplish that goal.
But after five games played, the Bulls have an inverse record at 1-4 and are in need for a win as they try to avoid a four-game losing streak. Outside of the win against Memphis, Chicago has collapsed in crunch time and it has already cost them three victories. The Bulls are now tied with the Knicks for the bottom spot of the Eastern Conference. The Sacramento Kings, who have started this year 0-5, are the only team with a worse record.
After their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls are heading into another divisional matchup on a three-game losing streak. This time it’s against Derrick Rose and the Detroit Pistons, who have started 2-3. After winning their season opener against the Indiana Pacers, Detroit has dropped three of its last four. In their most recent game, the Pistons gave up 30 and 20 points to Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry, respectively, in a 125-113 loss.
It hasn’t helped the Pistons that they are missing one of their key pieces to start the season. Blake Griffin hasn’t played for Detroit so far this season with a hamstring issue and some lingering aftereffects from his offseason knee surgery. He is traveling with the team, but he’s not playing on Friday night:
Blake Griffin worked up good sweat this morning at shootaround. Asked of he has a timetable, he just smiled and said he is just doing what the medical staff tells him. #Pistons.— Vince_Ells56 (@Vincent_Ellis56) November 1, 2019
In his absence, Detroit has still been able to get some nice production from the power forward spot. Christian Wood, who split time with the Pelicans and Bucks last season, has picked up some of the slack. He’s currently averaging 9.8 points and 4.5 rebounds while maintaining a TS percentage of 78.5%, albeit on low volume. After facing the duo of OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, Wood is going to be faced with another unique matchup in Lauri Markkanen. Like Siakam, defending in space will be key for the 24-year-old. Markkanen has shot poorly to begin the season, hitting only a mere 21.2 parent of his shots from deep, but he’s due.
The key for the Bulls tonight will be their defense and execution down the stretch. Yes, these are the two easiest things to point out when assessing what’s gone wrong so far this season. But these are also the two problems that have been the difference between wins and losses for Chicago. While the defense projected to be a work in progress throughout the season, the offensive execution down the stretch is a head-scratcher. Can guys like Zach LaVine, Markkanen, and Otto Porter Jr. bounce back with better performances?
As for the rest of the Pistons’ injury report (via the official NBA injury report), Reggie Jackson is out with tightness in his lower back. Markieff Morris is questionable with an ankle sprain.
Then there’s Rose, who’s probable in his return to the United Center despite dealing with a right hamstring strain. Rose has stepped up in a big way in Griffin’s absence, averaging 20.4 points and 6.2 assists while shooting a robust 55.3% from the field. He’ll certainly be motivated to have a big game tonight.
The only player who will be out for the Bulls will be Chandler Hutchison, who’s still dealing with a lingering hamstring issue. Hutchison still hasn’t played this season, and it appears he just had some sort of setback. Not ideal.
Game Time: 7 p.m. CT
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Spread and O/U (via Bovada): Bulls are a 3.5 point favorite and the over/under is set at 216.