The Bulls Monday on Martin Luther King Day came back from an early 13-point deficit to pull away from the Detroit Pistons for a 111-101 victory.
It was the first win over the Pistons this season after two overtime losses including the four-overtime marathon last month. The Pistons also were coming off a victory over the Golden State Warriors. The Bulls had lost four of five. The Bulls moved to 24-16. The Pistons are 22-19.
The Bulls were led by a big game from Pau Gasol with 31 points and 12 rebounds, taking advantage of his fine outside shooting. Derrick Rose had 20 points and Jimmy Butler 16. Doug McDermott had 11 points off the bench and Taj Gibson had a fierce defensive effort with eight points and 10 rebounds.
The Pistons had all five starters in double figures and a 50-38 rebounding advantage, but the Bulls shot 52 percent and made nine of 21 threes.
It was the first day in the rest of the Bulls life without Joakim Noah, scheduled for shoulder surgery in the coming weeks and likely lost for the rest of the season. Though it was the regular starters who never got going. The Bulls did contest vigorously in the opening moments, but the Pistons then scored in 11 of 12 possessions to bolt out to a 26-13 lead on more than 70 percent shooting late in the first quarter.
The Bulls had been stagnant, playing slowly on offense. But they got some movement with McDermott and Nikola Mirotic coming in, though it was Gasol’s perimeter shooting for 12 first half points that kept the Bulls within 32-26 after one quarter. After a slow start to the second quarter, the Bulls got a boost from the shooting of McDermott and the stand up screens from Gibson that got shooters open for a 9-0 run as the Bulls edged ahead 39-38. The reserves handed back the playing time baton trailing 40-39 as Gasol returned to hit another 18 footer and Rose added a three and a bank on a fast break pass from Butler. With Butler closing the half with a post up jumper, the Bulls led 56-53 behind Gasol’s 15 and 55 percent shooting with nine each from Rose and Butler and eight from McDermott.
The Bulls adjusted well to thwart Andre Drummond inside with more double team help and tightened their defense. They moved out quickly after halftime to take a 62-53 lead with a pair of Rose drives and then led 72-63 when the Pistons hit the Bulls with their own 10-0 run behind Ersan Ilyasova’s shooting to grab back the lead. But with Gasol on the boards for a put back the Bulls went into the fourth quarter hanging onto an 83-79 lead.
The Pistons stayed in by beating the Bulls to second shots, an issue for the Bulls all season as Detroit got within 88-87 with about eight minutes left. But the Bulls then gained some space as McDermott hustled upcourt for a corner three and Gasol added a corner three as he kept roving outside to take Drummond away from the basket. Rose then made a pair of driving scores for a 105-94 lead with just over two minutes remaining.