Playing without both Derrick Rose (groin) and Rip Hamilton (shoulder) once again, the Chicago Bulls pulled out an 83-71 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night at the United Center. The Bulls improved to 42-11 this season, which remained good for the best record in the NBA.
The Bulls placed four players in double figures against the Pistons (18-33). Luol Deng shot the ball well and reached the 20-point plateau for the second straight game, dropping 20 and nine rebounds in 45 minutes of action. Joakim Noah followed in Deng’s footsteps, putting up a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes, including a thunderous two-handed dunk over Jason Maxiell late in the fourth quarter. Carlos Boozer joined Noah in the double-double department, with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while C.J. Watson, starting in place of Rose, added 11 points.
After a fast-paced first quarter in which both teams shot well from the field, the Bulls’ defense tightened up in the second while the Pistons struggled to create much offense going toward the basket. The Bulls led 28-25 through one quarter of play, but the following frame was more to coach Tom Thibodeau’s liking – a defensive battle and an offensive struggle in which the Pistons score just 10 points but the home team committed nine turnovers in the first 24 minutes. Still, the Bulls closed the first half on an 8-2 run to take a 44-35 lead at intermission.
Even though the Pistons were without former Bull Ben Gordon, Brandon Knight had 16 points and the visitors stayed within striking distance through the first three periods. The Pistons outscored the Bulls 26-21 in the third to cut Chicago’s lead to 65-61 heading into the fourth. But that’s when the Bulls took control of the game, going on an 8-0 run to start the quarter and outworking and out-competing their way to an ugly win.
Even though the Bulls shot just 42.7 percent from the field and committed 15 turnovers – not to mention the fact that they missed 10-of-12 three-pointers despite shooting well from beyond the arc over the last two games – they dominated the Pistons in the paint on both ends of the court. The Pistons shot a paltry 36.9 percent and didn’t attempt their first free throw until the six minute, seven second mark of the third quarter. The Bulls also outrebounded Detroit 53-37, anchored by Noah, Omer Asik (seven boards) and Taj Gibson (five).
Still, the Bulls know they need both Rose and Hamilton back in the lineup so that the back-court duo can gain a rhythm before the playoffs. But, in the meantime, the Bulls have done whatever it takes to come out on top night in and night out. It’s admittedly hard for elite teams to get up for contests against lowly squads, but the Bulls are never satisfied – a mindset instilled by Thibodeau – and took care of business Friday.
Next up, the Bulls have a day off Saturday before playing a highly anticipated, nationally televised game against the Oklahoma City Thunder (39-12) on Sunday afternoon at Chesapeake Energy Arena.