Bulls blow out Pistons, ready to face reloaded Nets squad Wednesday

Chicago pulled away in the second-half against Detroit, improving to 27-11 after a 133-87 victory.
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later


It's KD, the Beard and the Iconoclast, yes, Kyrie. It's for supremacy in the Eastern Conference, measuring sticks and...

Oh, right, the Pistons, 133-87 Bulls.

So with the Bulls Wednesday on the second of the back to back facing the conference favorite Nets with the real three alphas, the Bulls...

Pistons, Pistons, yeah, them again.

Not that the Bulls with their own dank recent history have much currency to ignore other teams, but there wasn't much to it after a shaky start—looking ahead, perhaps?—with the Bulls trailing 13-7 a few minutes into Tuesday's home game.

"We came out slow, let them kind of jump on us," acknowledged DeMar DeRozan.

These Pistons don't do much jumping on, though they did have some recent wins over the Jazz and Bucks. But they were coming into the game 9-30 with an experimental rookie team with No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham that looks years away from the playoffs. It's been a rough couple of decades in Detroit for pistons and Pistons.

So the Bulls got going in the second quarter, riding a 61-52 lead into halftime and then with a tire squealing 17-0 engine roar to begin the second half both me and the Bulls were quickly finishing up our automobile references.

The Bulls gunned—OK, last one—their lead up to 47 points in the fourth quarter, put eight players in double figures, outrebounded the Pistons by 20, shot more than 50 percent overall and from threes, had 33 assists on their 50 baskets with both DeRozan and Zach LaVine threatening triple doubles, scored more than 130 points for a league most sixth time this season and continued to push farther into memory perhaps the most fierce rivalry in NBA history with a 10th straight win over the Pistons.

Tap to watch highlights from Chicago's blowout victory over the Pistons on Tuesday night.

"Second half we came out and played how we should have started the game," said DeRozan, who had 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. "I think we were more ourself team wise on both ends the second half. Tonight was a game we need to realize we have to come out and set the tone at the jump ball."

Nikola Vucevic led the scoring with 22 points, all the starters playing fewer than 30 minutes. Lonzo Ball had 18 points with four of seven threes and three steals. Troy Brown Jr. had a career-high six steals and deep reserves Alfonzo McKinnie and Matt Thomas combined to shoot seven for nine with each scoring 10 points.

And Ayo Dosunmu played a curiously long stretch of 14 consecutive minutes as the first player off the bench after that slow start. Bulls coach Billy Donovan's strategy, which worked, seemed particularly counterintuitive. The Bulls were getting beat on the offensive boards to begin. So Donovan went smaller. He replaced undersized starting power forward Derrick Jones with point guard Dosunmu.

But mad scientist Billy had a plan, and it worked thanks also to Dosunmu's velcro play on Cunningham. The top pick had eight points on three of 11 shooting. Dosunmu had all 10 of his points in the first half.

"I just knew the way the game was going to bring energy and play hard and give another lift to help us get going," said Dosunmu. "Of course, me being drafted in the second round, every night I have to play with a chip on my shoulder just to prove where I thought I should have belonged. But that's all in the past. I just try to go out there and compete on the defensive end."

Donovan said it wasn't so much the size as he saw the Pistons at their best in recent wins made a lot of threes with their smaller interior players popping outside. So Donovan sized down even more.

"We needed a jolt of energy and Ayo has always been a really good motor guy," said Donovan. "I feel Ayo always comes in with kind of a mentality to defend and be disruptive and aggressive, and when he got in there he did some really good things early in the game. When Ayo came off the bench we got in transition, we got some steals, we got some stops, we kind of got right back in the game and then opened up a little bit of a gap in that second quarter."

Ayo Dosunmu guards Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham.

Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu guards Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham.

With a lot of help afterward from Vucevic, who probably played his best quarter of the season with 16 points, a pair of three and five rebounds in the third.

"That third quarter you could see his whole package," admired Donovan, "the passing, the posting up, the shooting threes, pick and pop mid range, the offensive rebounds. Had some great footwork plays around the basket. In that third quarter to me he got everything involved that he can do offensively."

And then they began to think more about Nets than nets.

The Bulls moved to 27-11, two and a half games ahead of the Nets with already this season a 2-0 advantage over Brooklyn. Donovan and his coaching staff also can almost clinch being the All-Star coaching staff (best record in each conference about two weeks before the game) with a win. Though we'll hear little about that.

With the NBA easing toward the All-Star weekend and next week the halfway mark of the season, it's a valid opportunity to take a team's temperature. The Bulls have been hot, winning nine straight before losing in Dallas Sunday. And the Nets being on the road have the vaccine-averse Irving back, presumably along with Kevin Durant and James Harden. Then the Bulls Friday play the Golden State Warriors, though the status of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green remains uncertain.

With both games now moved to national TV with Wednesday's an unusually late 9 p.m. start for ESPN.

It's probably the Bulls' biggest week of the season playing the teams many still consider the most likely to meet in the NBA Finals.

Not if the Bulls have something to say about it, eh?

"To be the best in this league, you've got to compete against the best," said DeRozan. "Tomorrow is going to be one of those fun games. I'm pretty sure they're going to come in here with some type of revenge, especially having Kyrie back. We beat them twice. It's going to be a challenge. It's one of those games you look forward to. We start there, and then we worry about the next opponent after that.

"Complete, dynamic, three-headed monster team that they are," DeRozan added about the Nets. "Having those guys, having Kyrie, one of the most dominant point guards in this league, it's good for the game first of all. I'm pretty sure it's great for Brooklyn. We love seeing full strength (opponents). Hopefully tomorrow we've got an opportunity. You go out there and compete, put yourself in position to want to be seen, to be respected and want to be watched. I just (feel) that's where we're at."

It's a good chance for everyone to take a look.

Got a question for Sam?

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.


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