The Chicago Bulls were back in action in the United Center on Monday night when they hosted the Detroit Pistons. Both teams entered Monday’s contest on a bit of a skid, so who wanted the win more?
First of all, Dwyane Wade’s serious face looks a lot like a tired face. The team was particularly non-responsive, or “serious” during player introductions. That set the tone for how the Bulls opened the game.
Chicago looked much better than they did during their weekend sweep at the hands of Milwaukee. The offense didn’t look different early, save for once every few plays they would make the effort to get into their sets a few seconds faster. The same mid-range and rim approach was intact, the Bulls scoring on jumpers and hook shots.
They opened 12-for-16, en route to a 25-13 lead just over eight minutes into the game, but only had one 3-point attempt in those 16 shots and it was made. They really weren’t doing a lot to even look for outside shots. I don’t know if it is because they know they aren’t good from outside with their starting five or something else. In any case, there was at least one situation where Robin Lopez drew a double on a rim attack and looked off a wide-open Jimmy Butler, parked in the corner 3 zone.
After a two-game hiatus on the DNP-CD list, Nikola Mirotic made his triumphant return to the rotation, getting on the court in the first, along with Doug McDermott. Perhaps because of gameplay and not a lot of stoppage, the Bulls went more than 11:30 into the game with three of their starters still in the game. Normally that is just one or two of the starters. Cristiano Felicio got first quarter action, too, meaning that Bobby Portis went from being a first-quarter sub to completely out of the primary front court rotation.
It was all Bulls. They led 35-19 at the end of the first quarter and had 15 assists on 17 field goals. And it kept going in the second quarter with the bench. The bench got out to a blistering start, led by Mirotic who started 3-for-3 including a made 3-pointer, and got out to a 15-0 scoring advantage over the Pistons bench.
And then there were the rebounds. Four minutes into the second quarter it was 14-6 Bulls advantage on the glass. They pushed their lead as high as 26 points during the early portion of the second quarter as Wade was locked in and both Mirotic and McDermott played their best basketball of the month.
For a long stretch it was the M&M show, McDermott and Mirotic connecting on 3-point attempts, alley-oops and in the mid-range.
First, let’s get a little Niko action:
Then, let’s sprinkle on some Dougie McBuckets:
For good measure, some Jimmy:
And then it was back to work for the starters. Lopez was doing an impressive job of knocking down hook and hook against the Andre Drummond. It was just one of the halves of basketball where nothing went wrong, completely mystifying. They scored 69 points in the first half. They also scored 69 points in the entire game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night. It was 69-34 at halftime.
The second half was a slower affair in the sense that there weren’t any big runs early, just two teams going back and forth. Rondo, surprisingly, continued to push in transition and Lopez continued to drop in hook shots over Drummond. And none of the things in this game touched on the performance of Taj Gibson, who started 8-for-8 from the floor and played some stiff defense helping neutralize the Drummond-Tobias Harris combo.
The game slipped away ever faster and further. The route was on and it was never close again at any point during this game.
It doesn’t leave us with much to say about how the action unfolded as most of the primary Bulls players spent the last 12 minutes zoned-out on the bench.
There’s a lot of ugly with the young Bulls bench players, but it is very important to see them out there getting time to play a real game, together, against an actual team. Plus, if you’re a fan of Henry Ellenson, Stanley Johnson, or Boban Marjanovic, you got to see some of the fun Pistons that probably never play if this game is at all close.
More from Pippen Ain’t Easy
I was mostly unimpressed by Jerian Grant. He was pulled with about 4:30 left to play in favor of Isaiah Canaan. There was a lot of late playing time for Felicio, Denzel Valentine, and eventually Bobby Portis. They even cracked the seal on Paul Zipser again. Valentine knocked down a nice 3, Zipser had a nice drive that he couldn’t finish. Overall, this young Bulls bench has a lot of players I want to believe in and be genuinely excited about, but there isn’t anything to inspire such confidence.
It was a much-needed win for Chicago, though it probably does nothing to help clear up who the Bulls really are this season. Tonight, Chicago knows who they were for 48 minutes – the best team on the floor. And it wasn’t even close.