After going down by as many as 25 points late in the first half and trailing by 18 at halftime, the Chicago Bulls needed a spark. Billy Donovan shuffled his lineup and switched out three starters at the start of the third quarter, with Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky and Denzel Valentine joining Zach LaVine and Garrett Temple on the floor, pushing Wendell Carter Jr., Coby White and Patrick Williams to the bench after the veterans closed the first half strong.
The gambit worked, but the real spark once again came from LaVine. He had a monstrous opening to the second half, scoring 15 points in the third quarter alone to get Chicago back into the ball game. LaVine’s heroics continued into crunch time, but then it was clutch 3-pointers from Coby White and Patrick Williams that helped hold off a furious charge from Jerami Grant in a thrilling 105-102 victory.
LaVine and Grant engaged in quite the duel, with Zach going off for 37 points on 14-of-22 shooting and 4-of-6 from 3. Not to be outdone, Grant poured in a career-high 43 points on 15-of-25 from the field and 4-of-9 on 3-pointers.
While the three Bulls youngsters were benched to start the half, it was great to see them bounce back and make crucial plays. Carter had 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including five points in the fourth quarter. Williams scored 12 of his 15 points in the final frame, including two on this thunderous slam:
Williams had the assist on White’s clutch triple and then calmly buried his the next possession:
I guess 'The Paw' is a thing now pic.twitter.com/ce8DVYUOsV— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) February 18, 2021
LaVine and the Bulls deserve credit for the ball movement in these spots. The Pistons sent a second man at LaVine to get the ball out of his hands, and Chicago made the right passes to get open looks in the corner to help win the game. While the Bulls shot just 8-of-28 on 3-pointers, they made these count.
The Bulls only got 18 points from their bench, but Young had another terrific all-around game with nine points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block before fouling out. The reserves racked up 18 of Chicago’s 29 assists, and in a rather hilarious box score quirk, Denzel Valentine was a plus-9 despite shooting 1-of-11 from the field and 1-of-8 from 3-land. The bench guys stepped up defensively and helped flip the momentum of the game.
Before the massive comeback, this game certainly got off to an inauspicious start, with LaVine picking up two quick fouls in the opening four minutes. He still had himself a solid quarter offensively, though, as he was able to navigate his way into the teeth of the Detroit defense on multiple occasions and had two dunks as a result of it. Chicago had some good ball movement with eight assists on its first 11 makes.
However, the first quarter belonged to the Pistons, particularly Grant. He had 13 points in the opening frame and Delon Wright had eight as Detroit shot 66.7 percent from the field (14-of-21). This was enough to give them a comfortable 35-27 lead at the end of one, and it wasn’t fun to see Luke Kornet in the rotation again ahead of Daniel Gafford.
Chicago’s offense went ice cold to start the second, going scoreless for the first five-plus minutes. In fact, that spell foreshadowed how most of the quarter would go for the Bulls. Detroit took advantage and added to the lead, making it a 20-point game with around seven minutes left in the half. The Bulls finally got a bucket when Carter Jr. got a putback dunk off a Thaddeus Young miss, but it did little to stop the momentum as the deficit grew to 25.
The score was 59-34 with 2:37 left in the first half when things started to change. Garrett Temple knocked down a 3-pointer to kickstart a 9-2 run, with LaVine capping off the half with a layup to make it 61-43 at the break.
After the events of the first half, Donovan decided to roll out that Satoransky-LaVine-Valentine-Temple-Young lineup. The rotation shuffle seemed to bring the Bulls back to life as two quick LaVine buckets and a Temple jumper cut the deficit down to 12. Like the first quarter, it quickly became the LaVine show on offense as he continued to attack the Detroit defense. He had a fantastic play where he had a slam dunk after backdoor cutting Josh Jackson on the baseline:
On the other end, the Pistons went on a cold streak of their own, scoring just two points in the opening six minutes of the third. Chicago got the lead under double digits with 4:31 left in the quarter, prompting a timeout by Detroit. Despite the Bulls narrowing the gap to one on multiple occasions, they still weren’t able to take the lead in the third. But the damage was done, with Chicago outscoring Detroit 27-12 to make it a three-point game heading into the final quarter. Things also got a bit chippy toward the end of the quarter:
Double-tech on Zach LaVine/Josh Jackson after LaVine stripped Jackson and drew a frustration foul— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) February 18, 2021
LaVine, so it appeared: “I don’t play that shit. Fuck outta here.” pic.twitter.com/tgePzTcpGW
The comeback was made complete with 9:57 to go in the fourth when Temple had his layup blocked after it already hit the backboard, resulting in a goaltending to give the Bulls their first lead since the opening minute. From there the two teams kept battling for the remainder of the game. The Pistons started sending doubles at LaVine as soon as he crossed the half-court line, which naturally opened up areas of the court for this teammates to exploit.
While the Pistons continued to hang around, the Bulls kept responding, whether it was LaVine or somebody else. Young fouling out with 2:50 left in the game could have spelled doom, but five crunch-time points for LaVine and then the back-to-back corner 3-pointers helped seal the deal.
It was still tense up until the final moments as some missed free throws by Chicago gave Detroit one final shot opportunity. However, Delon Wright’s 3-point attempt clanked off the front of the rim and gave Chicago a much-needed comeback win.
The Bulls have won three of four since that awful loss to the Wizards, and they’re now 12-15 on the season. Amazingly, this is just half-game behind the sixth-seeded Knicks and 1.5 games behind the fifth-seeded Celtics.
Next up is the Bulls’ lone national TV game for this first half of the season in Philly against the Sixers on Friday.