After narrowly beating the Detroit Pistons in the season opener on Wednesday, the Chicago Bulls had a much better performance against the same team at home three days later. While much of the focus on this team has been on the offense, it was the defense that was locked in, limiting the Pistons to just 38.6 percent shooting from the field and 17.9 (!) percent from three-point land. They held Detroit to just 26 points in the second and third quarter combined, leading to a decisive 97-82 win.
The Bulls were active all over the floor defensively, forcing 23 turnovers, leading to 24 points on. Chicago even protected the rim well with 11 blocks, including one huge stuff that Lonzo Ball made on Isaiah Stewart in the second quarter.
Chicago started off this game poorly as Detroit picked up an early 9-0 lead. Stewart got two quick early baskets on Nikola Vucevic as the Bulls struggled to generate any offense within the first couple of minutes. The run forced an early timeout from Billy Donovan as it sort of looked like it may be an off night for Chicago on a back-to-back. But those concerns quickly went away as they scored eight straight points of their own. Both teams then went back and forth thought the rest of the period, trading one point leads. It was DeRozan who gave the Bulls an offensive spark in the first quarter, scoring seven points including six in the final two minutes. Thanks to that, the Bulls were up 31-28 after one.
The second quarter saw Chicago expand their lead up to double digits as they went up by as much as 11 in the first half. Detroit’s turnover problem started to ramp up during this time as the Bulls bench were causing havoc all over the floor. Like in their home opener against New Orleans, the reserves gave a spark when inserted into the game. Javonte Green and Alex Caruso played well and we even saw early minutes for Ayo Dosunmu. The Pistons offense struggled mightily, going as much as four minutes without scoring a basket. They had just 15 points in the quarter. Chicago’s offense didn’t sputter like it did to start the game and in turn, led 54-43 at the end of the half.
If the second was a bad offensive quarter for Detroit, then the third was even worse. Chicago’s defense shut them down completely, allowing a mere 11 points. The Bulls responded with 25 in the third quarter as they built up their lead even further. LaVine rebounded with a solid offensive quarter, scoring eight points including two three-pointers. There were numerous highlight plays in the third quarter. One of them was DeRozan’s poster dunk where he blew by Kelly Olynk and slammed it home plus the foul.
The quarter ended on a high note as Patrick Williams splashed a buzzer-beating three from straight away to make it a 79-54 game.
It seemed like we had another massive Bulls blowout on our hands, but the Pistons had other ideas. With seven minutes left in the game and the Bulls up 31, they on a massive run. Detroit scored 17 straight points and forced Donovan to put back in some of his starters to stop the bleeding. When LaVine knocked down a step back to make it a 17 point game with 3:34 left, that was the dagger and all but sealed the victory.
Offensively, DeMar DeRozan was the Bulls leader with 21 points, six assists, and six rebounds on seven of 18 shooting from the field. Zach LaVine struggled in the first half but still finished with 14 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Vucevic had another double double with 15 points and 18 rebounds. Lonzo Ball was also all over the stat sheet as he contributed much more than his 13 points. He also had four rebounds, three steals, and a whopping four blocks. Williams was the only starter to not score in double digits as he dropped nine points and four rebounds.
As for the bench, Caruso had 12 points along with a team high five steals and four assists. He was constantly a thorn in Detroit’s side, knocking the ball away constantly and trying to kick start fast breaks. Green scored 10 points, going a perfect three of three from the field. He also grabbed four rebounds.
The Bulls shot just 41.8 percent from the field overall, but were 42.3 percent from three.
The Pistons were led by the 20 of Saddiq Bey who racked up a double double by grabbing 16 rebounds. However, the rest of Detroit’s starters combined for just 22 points. Jerami Grant struggled, going just four of 13 from the field. Olynk had a decent first half and finished with 10 points. Trey Lyles was their biggest contributor off the bench points wise with 12. Again, it was the turnovers and poor shooting which hampered Detroit despite them beating Chicago in the rebounding battle 52-43.
Now Chicago goes on the road to face the Toronto Raptors on Monday as they look to start the season 4-0 after a perfect opening week.