Jimmy Butler started the game 0-7 in the first half but came roaring back in the second half knocking down six of his seven shots while Nate Robinson energized the Bulls with his offense scoring nine straight points in just over a minute to bring the Bulls back. Then with the game on the line, Joakim Noah made the save of the day to Marco Belinelli for the game winner.
The Chicago Bulls limped through a first half where the offense couldn't get rolling falling down by nine. The Pistons started the third period with a bang, scoring the first eight points growing their lead to 17. From that point forward, it was all Bulls. The passing improved, the jump shots started falling, the Pistons became rattled, and the Bulls defense suffocated them, particularly on the inside where the Pistons had hurt the Bulls in the first half.
Jimmy Butler played the best half of his career
This may have been Butler's best game overall, which is ironic because he was abysmal on offense in the first half. However, in the second half Butler's offense helped bring the Bulls back. He never lost confidence. He never stopped shooting his shot, and they all fell for him.
His confidence was soaring so high that with two minutes left, he drilled a three with no hesitation and the defense closing out hard on him and even added a nice strut after knocking it down. The shot put the Bulls up two and set the tone for the end game.
On defense, Butler was so good that you rooted for the Pistons to try to go into Tayshaun Prince. He deflected passes constantly, some leading to fast breaks, and at least two or three more that almost did but went out of bounds just on the edge of him saving the ball. His man defense was incredible, his instincts were incredible, overall, just an amazing close out for Jimmy.
Sometimes you need Hinrich, sometimes you need Nate
Last night, the Bulls needed Nate.
Hinrich's done a nice job managing games, getting people involved, playing defense, and playing his role as floor general. Nate Robinson, on a good day, can flat out score. Yesterday was a good day for Nate Robinson.
The Bulls had trimmed down the Pistons lead to 10 when Nate Robinson went off. He knocked down a couple ill advised mid range jumpers that only felt like good shots after they swished through the basket and then knocked down the heat check three. In one minute, Nate Robinson brought a 10 point lead down to one, seizing control of the momentum.
No worries about Joakim's effort tonight
If the Bulls benched Noah for a lack of hustle two games ago, the message came through loud and clear. Rather than pouting, Noah has redoubled his efforts and played consecutive high energy games outworking his opponents. Joakim dominated the glass in this game and down the stretch had two crucial offensive rebounds to help close out the game.
The first with just over a minute to go was a tap out, and the Bulls, nursing a two point lead were able to run 20 more seconds off game clock. They failed to score, but they took away one more possession for Detroit to attempt to score. Then with 10 seconds left in the game and the shot clock running down, Marco Belinelli hoisted a three that fell well short.
The ball started sailing way out of bounds and no one chased after it. Joakim Noah went Dennis Rodman on the Pistons diving into the stands to save the ball. His save barely cleared the baseline (and maybe barely it didn't) to Marco Belinelli who just dove straight to the hoop for the and 1 layup as the Pistons largely stood around listlessly thinking the play was over.
The Bulls mobbed Belinelli as Noah lay in a tangle of reporters and gave a humorous "what the hell guys, don't I get even enough love for making that save for someone to come help me up" gesture. The Pistons, now down by three with 7.5 seconds left in the game actually generated two high quality looks at three point shots, but missed them both.
It wasn't pretty but it got done
You can never feel too good about a game where you let the Pistons get a 17 point lead, but at the same time, you have to admire the mental toughness of the team for coming back from 17 down to win. Chicago's now beaten the Pistons 17 times in a row [crazy isn't it?], and improved their record to 25-16 giving them their highest winning percentage of the year thus far.
The Bulls, at this moment, are on pace to win exactly 50 games, a remarkable accomplishment given the team turnover and the lack of Derrick Rose. The Bulls play has been so good that there will be no pressure on Rose at all to come in and play savior when he returns. Chicago wasn't going to rush Rose back regardless of the record, but beyond that when he comes back Derrick won't need to put pressure on himself to be the man and can just let the game come to him as his teammates have proven themselves on their own.