After Chicago’s marathon against Atlanta to start the month, they have seemed to lost a bit of steam with only one win in their last five games. In their two losses to the Detroit Pistons in last weekend’s home-and-home, they looked to wear down in the second half each time. In these two games, the Pistons outscored the Bulls 133-91 in the second half.
On Friday, the Bulls at one time owned a 21 point lead only to lose by 8, giving up an astounding 43 points in the fourth quarter. Then Sunday - with Zach LaVine resting - it was a huge third quarter which turned the tide against the Bulls, where Detroit scored 42 in a game where the halftime deficit was only 6.
Blake Griffin, who seems to have the Bulls number this season, was exceptional in Detroit’s huge run on Sunday. He scored 17 of his 28 points in the quarter and exploited the mismatches that the Chicago defense gave him. This was a very efficient quarter for Griffin, as you can see his shot chart for the third below (via ESPN).
It’s a good representation of his overall game as he shot 10 of 14 from the field and the Pistons as a whole shot a TS% of 65.1. Griffin has become more than a one-dimensional player in his offensive game in the more recent years of his career. His three-point jumpsuit has improved significantly. He’s shooting a career-high 36.2% on 6.8 attempts per game and he showed the Bulls what happens if you don’t come out and cover him.
Here Griffin gets the ball near the logo from Reggie Jackson. Andre Drummond, who is just getting into the Detroit half along with Griffin, goes and sets a screen on Lauri Markkanen. This forces both of the Bulls big men to defend a unique 4-5 pick and roll action. As soon as Drummond gets near Markkanen, he turns his back into a post up position and moves backward. Markkanen is caught by surprise and is essentially backed up into the post and out of the play. With Markkanen now guarding his man, Robin Lopez is forced to step up. Initially, you can see Lopez standing around the free-throw line anticipating Griffin to drive. With his limited foot speed and strength, this was a decent strategy to prevent Lopez from having to guard on the perimeter. But with Markkanen out of the play and not chasing Griffin off the three-point line, there is an ample amount space to take a jump shot. With Lopez too far away to make a decent contest, it’s a simple step in a three-pointer for Griffin.
A few possessions after, the Bulls went small with only one big out on the floor. With that big matchup against Drummond, this meant the likes of Wayne Selden, Kris Dunn, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Shaq Harrison all had to try and defend Griffin off switches. It went about as you would expect.
On this possession, Griffin is in the corner and is matched up against Dunn. As soon as the ball is swung to Luke Kennard, Griffin does the smart thing and posts up Dunn. With Dunn trying to prevent an easy pass into the post, Kennard is forced to throw it high for Griffin to catch it. The pass moves Griffin away from his initial post up spot but he finds himself on the baseline one on one against Dunn. Selden is also a key player here. He switched onto Drummond after the initial PNR which saw the ball flipped to Kennard coming off the switch. With Selden in the paint, he’s playing like a safety and is ready to run over for help defense on drives. Griffin has his back turned towards Dunn and is looking to his left. He sees Selden, for some reason, go from underneath the basket to the low block, leaving a wide-open path on his right to drive baseline. Griffin spins to his right and goes past Dunn towards the space Selden just vacated. With Dunn on his hip, it would be hard to go for a layup near side so he decides to go underneath the basket for the reverse layup. All Dunn can do is foul Griffin and watch as the ball lands into the net for a three-point play.
Suddenly what was an eight-point Detroit lead had ballooned up to twenty-three by the time the quarter ended, turning the fourth quarter into garbage time.
The Bulls had been pretty good lately in avoiding such situations in February, where this Boylen-helmed surge had either competitive losses or outright victories, though the context of what these victories are showing are debatable. Now after a peak win over the Sixers and a strong first half on Friday against Detroit, the Bulls ended their weekend with a thud.
The Bulls get a schedule break with only 1 game over the next 5 days and that one is coming at home against the now-tanking Lakers, and then they head out on a west coast trip.