Playing the first game of a back-to-back set, the Chicago Bulls earned a hard-fought 100-94 overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The Bulls improved to 46-14 this season, which remained good for the best record in the NBA.
The Bulls placed five players in double figures against the Pistons (22-38), sweeping the season series for the third straight year. Derrick Rose, who played his second straight game since returning from a sprained right ankle, dropped 24 points, nine assists and four rebounds in 41 minutes of action and drained a cold-blooded three-pointer that tied the game up at 86 with 6.4 seconds left in regulation to send it into overtime. Joakim Noah bounced back with a strong effort, putting up 20 points and 17 rebounds (13 offensive) – just his third 20 and 10 outing of the season. Carlos Boozer had 15 points and nine rebounds, while Kyle Korver scored all of his 13 in the fourth quarter and overtime and Rip Hamilton added 13 points in just 20 minutes.
Unlike Thursday’s game against the Miami Heat, the Bulls brought plenty of energy and focus from the outset, leading by as many as 11 points in the first quarter. Rose was on the attack; Noah was crashing the glass and Hamilton was showing his familiarity with the rims in Detroit. Tom Thibodeau’s bunch led 26-19 through one quarter of play. However, the Pistons rallied in the second frame, behind a strong showing from their bench, led by Charlie Villanueva (13 points). While the Bulls’ reserves were the storyline Thursday, they didn’t provide the same lift in the first half. But Rose checked back into the game with just over five minutes left in the second quarter as the Bulls closed the first half on a big flurry – a 12-2 run, fueled by high-effort plays and the reigning NBA MVP – to take a 49-41 lead at intermission.
In the third quarter, Bulls picked up right where they left off and went on an 8-2 run to start. They also led by double digits with just over six minutes to play in the period, but mired by sloppy play on both ends of the court – including going 6 minutes, 56 seconds without a field-goal – they fell behind 66-64 after the third. Although the Bulls started the fourth quarter strong, they went through another drought. This time, it lasted 6 minutes, 11 seconds. However, after Rodney Stuckey (team-high 32 points) clanked 1-of-2 free throws on back-to-back Pistons possessions – sandwiched in between both Luol Deng and Boozer missing shots from point-blank range – Rose supplied the heroics one game after it was C.J. Watson who tied the game up against the Heat, 86 all. Rose dribbled the ball up the court, got a screen from Noah at the top of the key, and the Bulls point guard raised up and swished a three-ball as Greg Monroe provided a weak contest.
The Bulls looked as if they were heading toward one of their worst losses of the season, following arguably their best win. They shot just 42.9 percent from the field and committed a whopping 21 turnovers – which the Pistons scored 21 points off of – for the game. Yet, Rose bailed his team out, as he’s done repeatedly over the past few seasons. The Bulls played down to the Pistons’ level for long stretches of the contest, but when all the marbles were there for the taking, Rose poured in a big-time shot that seemed to deflate the Pistons, who scored eight points in the extra frame to Chicago’s 14.
While Rose performed like the MVP when the Bulls needed him to, he also struggled at times, turning it over a game-high-tying seven times to go along with shooting 9-for-22 from the field and 5-for-8 from the free throw line. He’s back and had effective sequences in which he created plays for himself and teammates – but it’s clear that he’s not all the way back. Still, the Bulls will take the win on this evening and move on. They know they didn’t play their best basketball and failed to put Detroit away when they had the chances, but they locked down defensively – the Pistons shot just 39.3 percent and was outrebounded 50-41 – and made the critical plays when needed. Thibodeau is sure to let his team know about its lapses, anyway.
Next up, the Bulls return to action Monday night when they take on the Washington Wizards (14-46) at the United Center.