The Bulls and Pistons are extremely evenly matched teams. This is obvious to say after a game that required twenty extra minutes to decide, but it’s worth discussing as these two teams could find themselves in a playoff series come spring. Sometimes a close game isn’t as close as the score indicates. One team could have unexpected contributions from a hot shooter or two, or benefit from a few kind whistles from the ref. But Friday night that was not the case, as the Bulls and Pistons traded punches throughout a game that easily could have gone to a fifth overtime.
- Jimmy Butler scored a career-high 43 points in extremely efficient fashion. Butler shot 14/29 from the field on a variety of challenging shots. Even better than the great shooting was the patented aggression going to the basket to draw contact. Butler took 16 shots from the charity stripe, connecting on 14. Butler wasn’t able to find his three point stroke, but he did knock down his only three of the game in a high pressure situation to bring the Bulls back to within one point of Detroit with just seconds remaining in the fourth overtime.
- Butler wasn’t the only Bull to notch a season high point total. Derrick Rose was not shy about looking for his own shot off of pick and roll drives in this game, and that aggression allowed him to score 34 points. Rose went to his right-handed floater early and often throughout this game and was able to take advantage of Detroit’s conservative defensive scheme and avoid having to meet Andre Drummond at the rim.
- The downside of those finesse beauties is they don’t often lead to shooting fouls. Rose was 14/34 from the field, but only attempted five free throws. In order for Rose to boost his often atrocious efficiency, he’s going to need to get to the line more often.
- Early in this game it was obvious Rose was making an effort to push the ball across half court early in the shot clock. The early initiation of the offense allowed him to glide the rim a few times before Drummond could get down the court and clog the paint. But once again in the fourth quarter and overtime periods, Rose took his time getting into the offense. The Rose-Gasol pick and roll is a reliable way to create offense, but when it starts with less than sixteen seconds on the shot clock it often results in a contested attempt taken without the time to create secondary action on offense.
- Joakim Noah continues to look more like the guy who finished fourth in MVP voting than the broken down liability he was last season. In 25 minutes on the floor, Joakim scored six points, grabbed 11 rebounds (five on offense) and dished out four assists. My favorite Joakim moment from this game happened after Jimmy Butler knifed through the lane and found Jo, who had perfectly timed a cut from beyond the arc, for an uncontested dunk. The off-ball cut is just another way Joakim is able to squeeze offense out of his limited skill set.
- The Bulls bench struggled overall in this one. The only Bull to post a positive +/- who didn’t start was Kirk Hinrich’s +1 in 13 minutes. This is very disappointing considering the complete lack of bench talent on the Pistons. Fred Hoiberg missed an easy opportunity to hold and build upon the lead created by the starters by never having Pau Gasol in the game when Andre Drummond was on the bench. Gasol was very good in this game, scoring 30 points, 10 of which came at the line. But the majority of his shot attempts came on elbow jumpers after the kick out from a driving guard. Pau could have had an even bigger impact on the offense had Fred given him some run in the 13:35 that Joel Anthony was in the game. I understand the value of Pau’s ability to space the floor with the starting unit, but Detroit presented a perfect opportunity for the Spaniard to bang bodies against second unit scrubs.
- The Bulls received virtually no contribution from the small forward spot in this game. Tony Snell was 1/7 from the field, all three point attempts. Detroit picked on McDermott’s defense a lot in his 22 minutes of action. Doug was forced to track his man through numerous off ball screens and found himself switched onto Reggie Jackson twice in the pick and roll. Doug is likely experiencing some post-traumatic stress from the ordeal. McDermott has improved his off ball defense since the start of the season and is able to work comfortably within the Bulls system. But his on ball defense still has a long way to go, and will need to improve to justify heavy minutes when the postseason comes around.
- Andre Drummond is a monster. He presents a huge challenge in the pick and roll and opens up wide open shots for his teammates by sucking in defenders when he dives to the rim. It’s rare for a guy who has no ability to hurt you from outside the restricted area to actually help your offensive spacing, but Drummond’s incredible size and athleticism allows him to do just that. Drummond’s defense waned down the stretch of regulation and overtime after picking up his fifth foul with five minutes left in the fourth, but he was able to last another 19 minutes on the court before fouling out in the final minute of this marathon.
- Coming up: the Bulls head to New York to play the Knicks…right now!