Bulls bounce back with balanced effort, blow past Pistons

Following two tough defeats, Chicago secured a much needed win on the road.
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later
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The Bulls used a balanced offensive attack and held the Pistons to just 39% shooting as Chicago blew out Detroit 100-86 on Friday night. The victory ends a Bulls two-game skid. Eight Bulls players scored at least eight points or more. The Bulls (19-22) host the league-leading Utah Jazz (30-11) at the United Center on Monday night.

The Bulls have made their share of gaffes this season, most notably and recently the late game collapses against the Spurs and Nuggets. So perhaps it was appropriate the man the Bulls call "Gaff" in a 100-86 victory Sunday over the Detroit Pistons helped the team avoid the recent blunders, faux pas and solecisms that left them Sleepless in the Rockies.

"The way we were losing these kinds of games during the season, it was mentally tough," admitted Tomas Satoransky, who contributed to a sonorous all encompassing effort with eight points, nine assists and three steals. "Especially after that Denver game, I couldn't really sleep much. There wasn't really much time to talk about everything. We had a film session, which was tough to watch, but it was necessary.

"We did a good job in fighting back and once we had the lead we kept pushing. We were doing a great job defensively," said Satoransky, the pitiful Pistons shooting 16 percent on threes and converting about 40 percent of their inside attempts. "We played much smarter, putting Zach (LaVine) in a better position and it was successful."

It didn't take much against the Eastern Conference's poorest team, which is sad even as much as the Bulls needed this win for 19-22.

Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine dropped 18 points in the victory over Pistons.

LaVine led the Bulls with 18 points, though was mostly a minor player as the reserves led by Ryan Arcidiacono and Denzel Valentine each with nine points had a 40-25 margin. Lauri Markkanen had 16 points and eight rebounds, though Patrick Williams' 10 points was louder with four dunks and cleverly stealing the opening jump ball for a fast break slam dunk. The Bulls didn't get quite enough boost from that, trailing 25-20 after one quarter and easing into a 46-45 halftime lead before leaving Motor City in their rear view mirror with an early third quarter 11-3 run that basically kept a double digit lead the rest of the game.

The Bulls mostly did everything better with 14 of 28 threes, a 52-37 margin rebounding, leading in second chance and fast break points. Twenty-one turnovers for 22 Detroit points didn't matter much because of the competition.

With Jerami Grant down from 43 points the last time the teams met to 26, there wasn't much else for the Pistons since Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose departed and first round pick Killian Hayes has yet to play. The Bulls also got a needed surge—for the team and himself— from Daniel "Gaff" Gafford with eight points and a career high 11 rebounds.

Having played only about 25 blowout game minutes in the last month, Gafford was ready when Wendell Carter Jr. had to be treated after being inadvertently poked in the eye by Otto Porter Jr. Suffering from what he said was his own crisis of confidence since falling out of the rotation, Gafford responded in the second quarter with three consecutive Bulls scores, two on putback dunks.

"I took it for granted (starting briefly) and I basically threw away the things that I was doing," Gafford admitted. "I just knew that changes were gonna have to be made because of how I was playing. My confidence was really weighed down because I wasn't playing, always having to come in the gym on off days, things like that. But all that helped. Just trying to figure out things, like how I can be a big aspect off the bench. Confidence was a real big thing.


"I feel like I came out there and did what I had to do," said the second year big man. "Came out and grabbed rebounds and just basically kept energy up and came out with a spark for the team to help us be able to push through to this win."

Highlights from Chicago's Sunday night 100-86 win over the Pistons.

Which probably produced more relief than celebration for the Bulls with a game against Utah Monday. Though a breather and some success and validation was much needed after the recent catastrophes against the Spurs and Nuggets.

Except perhaps for longtime basketball fans, the worst of it is to see the Pistons this way.

Even Chicagoans who loathed the Pistons.

That the Pistons are 12-30 seems the most mystifying. How'd they get 12? Local police were giving out loitering citations the way Pistons players stood around and watched teammates go one-on-one until they could force up a shot or get stopped, and then let someone else take a turn. As Charles Barkley would say, Bill Laimbeer has to be rolling over in his grave. What's become of the greatest rivalry in sports makes you almost feel sorry for Bill Laimbeer. OK, almost, but not him.

Perhaps for Isiah, Joe, Vinny and even Worm. OK, maybe not Isiah.

Sure, there have been more famous and longstanding rivalries like Yankees/Red Sox, Ohio State/Michigan, Duke/North Carolina, Lakers/Celtics, Packers/Bears. Not that it was sporting, but perhaps nothing compared to the Bulls/Pistons severity and intensity, the bad feelings that lingered from the Freezeout to the Walkoff to the Olympic Snub. If anyone came to hug you afterward, you'd be watching for the knife in the back. No championship series carried the anticipation and anxiety of a Bulls/Pistons matchup.

Even all the way back to 1974 when the nascent Bulls won their first ever playoff series. A seven gamer, of course, against the Pistons. When the favored Bulls lost the first game, Pistons coach Ray Scott declared, "This series was supposed to be a piece of cake for them. Now they're choking on it."

C'mon, you have to miss that.

These are two great cities always in rivalry, two cities with inferiority complexes, Chicago to New York and Detroit to Chicago. Which was better Motown or the Blues? Detroit became the automobile capital, but the first auto show was in Chicago. Bears/Lions on Thanksgiving; you turkey! Blackhawks and Red Wings. Stormy, husky, brawling. Take your pick. Each city stakes a claim.

It's not like that anymore for the Bulls and Pistons. And it hasn't been for awhile as the Pistons enter their 13th season of rebuilding. That's correct; it doesn't always work. Be wary what you wish for.

The Pistons have had one winning season since 2007-08, which is when they won their last playoff game. Not series, game. Consider that was before Derrick Rose was drafted. They've missed the playoffs nine of the last 11 seasons and soon to be 10 of 12.

To paraphrase Joakim Noah, "I never heard anyone saying they were going to Detroit on vacation."

But it was a respite for the Bulls, who got a lot of fourth quarter rest for their starters. And some interesting new combinations from coach Billy Donovan.

Patrick Williams

Patrick Williams scored 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds in the win.

With the point guard position unpredictable, Donovan has began playing Arcidiacono again on a regular shift. It resulted in a season low 17 minutes for Coby White, his first game with fewer than 20. Carter did return to the game after his second quarter exit, but Gafford was busy making his case for more time as Thad Young with a typical 8-8-5 game remained starting—and often starring—center.

"I think having Sato as a veteran guy has been a positive," said Donovan. "We moved him into the starting lineup to kind of calm that group. I've said this about Coby: It's his first year (starting). Arch has given us some minutes. The position has really been done by committee. We've obviously played Zach there. I'm happy with the job those guys are doing. Can we all be better? Absolutely, but I appreciate the way those guys are sacrificing, trying to make the team better.

"We're going to have to do it by committee," Donovan reiterated. "I think of any position, Arturas (Karnisovas, basketball chief) is always going to look. Arturas is always going to look at how he can continue to help the group; how can he help them get better?"

That's significant since Thursday is the NBA trading deadline. The Bulls have been mentioned in rumors involving point guards and centers. Though any major move remains unlikely at this point, Donovan has said in recent weeks he believes little serious negotiation really occurs until the last hours before the 2 p.m. (CT) deadline.

So this one was mostly about not being another one like the one before.

"This group has always worked hard and always been pretty resilient," said Donovan. "They've always tried to come back and do better and work harder. We certainly have had a lot of emotional games this year. And a lot of them have been on the losing side. We've had some great wins as well. Some of the ones we've had have been heartbreaking. I give those guys credit: They always try to get better. They try to find areas they can improve and always seem to the next day regroup and try to respond to the best of the ability. I've been around teams where those kind of losses can always linger. You always worry about that as a coach. This group has been pretty consistent about at least trying to come back. I didn't know what the outcome would be, but I felt pretty confident we would fight and scratch and play really hard."

Pick me! Pick me! I knew. It's these Pistons, sigh.

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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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