On a night where Luol Deng was honored, after signing a one-day contract to retire as a Bull earlier this season, the Bulls put in a 4-quarter performance that earned them a 109-89 win against the Pistons. The Bulls were supported by strong games from Shaq Harrison, starting for the injured Chandler Hutchison, Lauri Markkanen & Tomas Satoransky.
Derrick Rose and Luol Deng Wednesday in the United Center received the standing ovations. But finally it was the Bulls who could take the bow with their best win of the season, an authoritative 109-89 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
From a fast 17-6 start that culminated with a Shaquille Harrison three pointer and a pair of Lauri Markkanen get-out-of-my-way dunks, the Bulls after a slight early second quarter blip pulled away after halftime and led by double digits most of the last 20 minutes of the game.
Markkanen showed some slump busting signs with 24 points and three of four threes. Harrison starting for the injured Chandler Hutchison after playing 24 minutes all season had 15 points and a career best 11 rebounds. Tomas Satoransky broke out of his torpor with 15 points and seven assists, the Bulls now 2-0 when Satoransky scores more than 10 points. Wendell Carter Jr. had a ninth double/double with 12 points and 15 rebounds and Coby White added a dozen points off the bench.
Despite 18 points off the bench from Rose on the night the Bulls were honoring former Bull Luol Deng, the Bulls outran, outshot and outhustled a lethargic Pistons team all over the court. The Bulls coerced 17 turnovers to lead the league, in all games forcing at least 15 turnovers. The Bulls broke out on threes, making 14 of 27 with White and Satoransky adding three each, had a 23-10 edge in second chance points despite the presence of center nemesis Andre Drummond and outrebounded the taller Pistons — as Blake Griffin appeared somnambulant — 55-46.
"We've been talking about the boards and about defensively hanging in games," said Bulls coach Jim Boylen. "I thought our defense was terrific. Wendell is a presence. We added a tough guy to the lineup, Shaq. Tom Izzo has a saying, PP, TPW, players play, tough players win. Shaq's a tough kid, He did a heck of a job for us. "I thought (Markkanen) was aggressive," Boylen added. "I thought he ran the floor. I thought he locked in defensively. You keep pounding the rock and you break through. He's been pounding the rock and he's fought through things. He stays positive, he's worked. You just keep working at it. I don't think there is any secret sauce. Be a pro, work at it, fight your way through it and I thought he did."
Since secret sauce often includes soybean oil, calcium chloride, xanthin gum, potassium sorbet and propylene, it's perhaps better Markkanen stuck to repetitive shooting.
"Nothing really (changed)," said Markkanen with about the same emotion as when things weren't going well. "Saw a couple (of shots) go in at the beginning. Obviously, this is just the start and I have to keep working. Just tried to be aggressive, get to the rim.
Lauri talks with Chuck Swirsky after the Pistons game
"Like I've been saying the whole time, just trying to stay confident knowing you put the work in. That's what it's all about, knowing it's going to turn around and just try to stay positive. There were a lot of people who tried to help, (they said) nothing is wrong, the shot looks the same. You just have to believe the shot is going in, try to forget the last shot and move on."
And this time the Bulls in moving to 5-10 were finally able to get on the move.
They played faster than the Pistons, against whom they have two of their five victories. They moved the ball well with 25 assists, seven from Satoransky, and did so despite Zach LaVine's first single digit scoring game of the season with five points. LaVine was a big part of the fast start, screening to get Markkanen open, assisting on a Markkanen three and scoring five of the team's first 14 points. Then he didn't score the rest of the game as the irritants took over.
"Toughness and a dog mentality," said Harrison.
Otto Porter Jr. remained out and it sounded like he won't even be reevaluated again until December. Hutchison came up with shin problems. Boylen explained he wanted to keep the bench in tact, so he started the unused Harrison, who picked up the baton from Daniel Gafford who had it from Ryan Arcidiacono who had it from Kris Dunn who…
The Bulls rotation has become an intriguing juxtaposition of talent and tenacity. More and more the so called hustle players, like Arcidiacono, have been gaining more playing time and finishing games. Harrison is one, and though he was credited with three steals, I counted at least five.
"Story of my life," said Harrison with a laugh. "Happens to me and Kris Dunn all the time."
It's the fate of the undrafted as a third of the Bulls rotation against the Pistons was undrafted and second round players. But Arcidiacono made two more threes and leads the team shooting 50 percent on threes, 16 of 32. Gafford had a pair of blocks for the second straight game. LaVine and Markkanen continue to play fewer than 30 minutes as the playing time increases for the overachievers. Whether it's a formula and trend or a necessity because of injury remains to be seen. Boylen said he expected Harrison to start Friday against Miami.
Harrison's had the most curious of NBA journeys, earning what appeared to be the starting point guard job with the Suns last season and then suddenly being released. He hooked on with the Bulls, and when Boylen ascended to head coach Harrison became a favorite and started 11 games. Boylen asked management to bring back Harrison, if possible. Harrison said he had some offers, but even slated to be a fifth guard decided to return to the Bulls.
"I built relationships with teammates here and the organization, so I felt like this was a fit for me and I knew in my heart it eventually would pan out for me and make it worthwhile," Harrison said. "The ultimate goal is to do whatever they need. If they wanted me to sit on the bench and clap for all 48 minutes, then I'm going do that if that helps result in us getting a win.
"It's the same mindset (playing or sitting)," Harrison explained. "Come in and get my work in. I knew this day was going to come. I didn't know when, but I knew I had to stay in the gym, continue to watch film on the opposing players we're playing and tonight I came in and he said, ‘Shaq, you're starting.'
Shaq's Highlights vs Detroit
"At times you have other players playing in front of you and you can easily cry about it and complain, but I kept my head on straight and stayed the course and everything worked out.
"We've been struggling lately and for us to get this win tonight was huge and especially against a division opponent," said Harrison. "I'm always going to play 100 percent every single night whether my shot is falling or not falling; you're going to get 100 percent out of me."
Finally, an A-plus.