The Bulls showed some resiliency, not only in the big picture after giving up a 15-point lead versus the Denver Nuggets last game, but in this game after going down by five points in the first quarter. It seemed like the Bulls were going to dominate the Pistons early in this one after Patrick Williams stole the starting tip-off and jammed it home for the first two points of the game. However, that wasn’t the case.
Jeremi Grant, who put up 43 points in the last meeting between the Bulls and the Pistons, had 14 points in the first quarter shooting 5/6 from the field. He led the Pistons to a five-point lead at the end of the quarter and personally handing Lauri Markkanen two fouls.
The Bulls came back strong in the second quarter, tightening up the game and going up by four points into halftime. Strong attribution to the comeback goes to Daniel Gafford who hasn’t played many minutes since filling in for Wendell Carter in the rotation. Donovan explained that decision post-game.
“He got to a place where he was questioning himself and was disappointed in some of his performances. When he got out of the lineup, he’s been in the gym every day, he’s playing five-on-five,” said head coach Billy Donovan. “I give him a lot of credit for how he performed tonight.”
Donovan also mentioned that the placement of Thaddeus Young at the center position and the return of Wendell Carter Jr. from injury kept him out of the lineup. In response to seeing more time tonight, Gafford put up eight points,11 rebounds, and defended the paint well.
By the third quarter, the Bulls ran away with the game. Zach LaVine put up 11 of his 18 points in this quarter, tacking on three rebounds and one assist to go with his performance. He helped the Bulls gain a ten-point lead which they did not give up for the rest of the game.
The Bulls played excellent defense in the second half of the game. After the Pistons started strong in the first half of the game, they ended up shooting 39 percent from the field and 16 percent from three, making just four of their 25 three-point attempts.
The Bulls dominated hustle stats by winning in rebounds (52-37), assists (26-20), fast-break points (15-8), and nearly points in the paint (42-42). They reverted to their lazy habits, turning the ball over 21 times to give the Pistons 21 points off of turnovers. Coby White struggled in this area, tying LaVine with four in the game playing just 16 minutes.
The bench put up 40 points in the game which accounted for 40 percent of the Bulls’ points. Valentine and Arcidiacono (nine), Gafford (eight), and White (seven) led the bench.
Tomas Satoransky tied his season-high with nine assists in the game and Young tacked on five assists to the team’s 26 total. Both were big reasons the Bulls were able to shoot 50 percent from three, giving their shooters plenty of looks.
Markkanen struggled to start the game. Grant and the Pistons scored the first four baskets against him and he was stuck with a quick two fouls in the first quarter. He ended the game on a positive note offensively by recording 16 points and eight rebounds.
The Bulls played down to the Pistons in the first quarter by playing similar to the Pistons’ methodical way of offense. The Pistons average just 102 possessions per game which rank 19th in the NBA. The Bulls average 104.9 possessions per game which are seventh in the NBA. They hardly pushed the ball downhill on transition nor moved too much on offense. Once the second half came, the Bulls quickly adjusted and played their game.