Fresh off a pair of embarrassing home-and-home losses to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bulls got back on track with a 113-82 bludgeoning of the reeling Detroit Pistons. The Bulls were a battering ram right out of the gate, and jumped out to a lead that grew as large as 38--before cruising to the finish line with relative ease. Does this mean the Bulls are an elite team again? Well…. probably not, no. But they can settle for being good. Monday night they were good, very good.
Flip around every bad thing that happened during Saturday night’s drubbing, and that’s what happened in this game. The Bulls managed a pathetic 69 points last time out, fast forward to Monday night--they had that by halftime. No Bull in the starting lineup shot 50% or better from the field that game, this time--all of them did. This wasn’t really caused by any huge change in philosophy of playing style on Chicago’s end. The NBA is a make or miss league, and that accurately explains Monday night’s result. The Bulls generated the same looks they've been getting, with a healthy dose of post ups, mid range jumpers, and not too many threes. Robin Lopez was 7-for-10 from the field, almost all coming on his patented goofy, flat-arcing hook shots. Taj Gibson rained a barrage of hellfire from mid-range down on Detroit’s heads, making all 8 of his shots. The Bulls’ plan of attack didn’t change too much, they just made more shots. That may not be entirely sustainable, but it’s fine for the moment. It was certainly more entertaining basketball to watch. If there’s a number to be encouraged by here, it’s the team’s 34 assists on 49 field goals. signaling less of a focus on isolation plays and more keeping the ball moving when the good shots aren’t generating themselves.
As for the Pistons? Oh man, were they bad. It’s easy to get discouraged when the other team makes 17 of their first 21 shots, but it was downright bizarre to see Detroit’s 3rd ranked defense get trashed so easily. After habitually making a killing of Pau Gasol on both ends the last 2 seasons, Andre Drummond was all but neutralized by Lopez and the Bulls’ defense. He grabbed a season low 4 rebounds and did nothing of note all night--unless you count him making a free throw to be something of note. Even with the semi-flukey Bulls shotmaking, the Pistons really seemed to be stuck in a malaise that dragged the whole team’s performance into the ground (except for Jon Leuer, who scored 16 points off the bench with relative ease). It was weird and it probably won’t happen again, but credit the Bulls for taking advantage.
This game also saw Nikola Mirotic’s highly anticipated return to the rotation after a 2-game benching, and to his credit, he did a fairly swell job. He had 13 points in 21 minutes of action, hitting 5-of-10 shots from the field and 3-of-6 from deep. He made an immediate impact off the bench with his shooting ability, and with the help of Doug McDermott, helped extend the starters’ formidable lead into a 35 point smacking by half time. Another surprise was an extremely solid outing from the polarizing Rajon Rondo. He dished out 14 assists, and in the 2nd half, even started knocking down some outside jumpers, including two threes. This won’t happen every night, but when you’re up 35, sometimes some magic can happen.
All in all, a very neat and tidy win for the Bullies. On Wednesday they will face the Washington Wizards, who have bounced back nicely after a horrid start to their season, but also just dropped a heartbreaker to the Indiana Pacers in the waning minutes. We’ll see if the Bulls can keep enough good vibes to put them away for the 2nd time this year.