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Bulls vs. Pistons final score: Chicago avoids disaster with big closing surge to earn 114-108 win

wasn’t pretty for much of the night

Chicago Bulls v Detroit Pistons Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

This was minutes away from being a thoroughly depressing recap. The Bulls stunk it up for much of the night against a Pistons team that has actually been feisty lately, and the visitors trailed 99-92 with just under nine minutes to play after a Rodney McGruder triple. The energy and vibes were all bad, with Tristan Thompson even needing to go off on the bench in an attempt to rally the troops thanks to some pitiful defensive effort.

But just when it seemed like the Bulls were dead in the water and heading for a sixth straight loss, they finally ramped up the defensive pressure, got some help from the Pistons, got some help from the refs and got the return of DeMar DeRozan’s heroics to pull out a 114-108 victory. Chicago used a 17-2 run to turn that 99-92 deficit into a 109-101 lead and then held on to move to 40-26 on the season.

DeRozan, after struggling mightily in the first half, scored 16 of his game-high 36 points in the fourth quarter, working his mid-range magic and also getting to the foul line. The free-throw line was a big factor in favor of the Bulls in this game after it was such a problem in the past few games, which the broadcast once again made a point to bring up. DeRozan went 12-of-13 from the charity stripe (4-of-5 in the fourth quarter) as the Bulls went 31-of-35 as a team, outscoring the home Pistons (13-of-17) by 18 points on freebies to make up for shooting just 3-of-15 from 3-point land.

Zach LaVine went to the line 11 times and knocked down 10 of them to wind up with 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting. LaVine was off target from 3-point range (1-of-7), but he had a lot of success going to the basket, whether it was finishing or getting to the line. LaVine had eight points in the fourth quarter, with four of them coming on free throws.

The Bulls’ third star, Nikola Vucevic, also had a nice game, going for 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting in his return to the lineup after missing last game with a hamstring injury. 14 of those points came in the first half as Chicago established Vooch down low against a Pistons team missing a big body in Isaiah Stewart, which resulted in Marvin Bagley III getting the start.

The Bulls didn’t get a whole lot of production outside of those three, though Javonte Green did hit this circus shot:

Also, Ayo Dosunmu had a stat-stuffing game with nine points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals. Ayo was often tasked with guarding fellow rookie Cade Cunningham, and while Cade had a nice game with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go along with six assists, he did turn it over six times. The Bulls actually racked up 13 steals and forced 16 total turnovers, which helped earn them an advantage in fast-break points of 13-4.

Where the Pistons enjoyed a significant advantage was their bench. Their reserves outscored the Bulls’ subs 43-19, with three guys scoring in double figures and another finishing with nine. The biggest contribution from Chicago’s bench was probably Thompson’s outburst, which seemed to help spark them. Otherwise, it was a mostly ugly performance from the reserves, especially Coby White.

To be frank, this was a mostly terrible effort from the Bulls up until the closing stretch of the game. They did get off to a nice start to lead 20-12, but then the Pistons got going and controlled the game for much of the rest of the night. Detroit shot over 58% through three quarters before Chicago finally buckled down late. There were just way too many blow-bys (Cory Joseph beat LaVine off the dribble three times) and poor defensive efforts in a game that should have featured more desperation. That desperation finally showed up at the opportune time, and the increased effort was obvious to close out the game. The Pistons certainly helped by finally cooling off and finishing at just over 51% from the field, but the Bulls helped force a bunch of those misses and played hard until the final buzzer to finish out the game.

The Bulls now get two days off before a big home game against the Cavaliers on Saturday. We got good news on Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams earlier in the day, with Caruso possibly returning to practice on Friday and hopefully playing any day now.