Here’s a way for the Bulls to start playing with better body language and looking like they’re having fun:
In the wake of three straight embarrassing losses in which they played in lifeless, dispiriting fashion, coach Fred Hoiberg implored his team to work — and work at having fun again. The Bulls obliged, never trailing in a 113-82 laugher over a Pistons team that held a players-only meeting after their last loss.
What do the Pistons do now, hold a seance?
“Team meeting, my ass,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I have nothing to say. It was a disgusting performance. Unprofessional, humiliating, embarrassing. I guarantee you on Wednesday, we’re not trotting that (starting) five out there.”
That’s not the Bulls’ concern. And future problems could be mere missed shots away. But for one night, with the bench standing and cheering for much of the night, the Bulls found their happy place.
“When you’re making shots, you’re always going to be smiling,” Jimmy Butler said.
The Bulls shot a season-best 59.8 percent, posted a season-high-tying 34 assists on 49 field goals and played with pace while placing seven players in double figures, led by Butler’s 19 points. Their season-high 69 points in the first half — on 72.7 percent shooting — matched their entire output from Friday’s loss to the Bucks.
Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic reminded all how much different the Bulls look when both players are effective simultaneously. They each scored 13, reaching double figures in the same game for the first time since Nov. 10. The Bulls’ 41 bench points were their most since Nov. 7.
Mirotic hadn’t played by coach’s decision the last two games, the first benching of his three-year NBA career. He compounded matters by forgetting a team walk-through and getting fined. But Hoiberg said Mirotic continued to work.
“He’s been the first guy in the gym really since last week,” Hoiberg said. “He was getting extra work in. That’s important when you’re taken out of a lineup, to try and work your way back in it. We need him. He spaces the floor.”
Mirotic admitted he needed a game like this.
“It’s been a hard time for me,” he said. “Sitting was something I’m not used to. But I kept practicing hard so when they called my name, I’d be ready.”
Rajon Rondo always practices hard, and he even knocked down two 3-pointers on a night he dominated. Playing just 28 minutes, Rondo finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and a season-high 14 assists. He routinely broke down the defense as the Bulls led by as many as 38.
In the first quarter, the Bulls shot 81 percent with 15 assists on 17 field goals. That’s ball movement.
“We needed this in the worst way,” Hoiberg said. “Last week was an embarrassing week for everybody. Guys played for each other. I thought we played as complete a game as we have all season.”
Before the game, Hoiberg quickly answered whether it’s harder to endure embarrassing losses as a player or coach.
“Coach — not even close,” he said.
The Bulls might have led the league in staring at the ceiling last week.
“We studied,” Butler said. “Everybody took the criticism that they very well deserved and learned from it. We got back in the gym and got better.”