Bulls

What to watch for: Bulls face Andre Drummond and Detroit Pistons

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USA TODAY

What to watch for: Bulls face Andre Drummond and Detroit Pistons

For the third time this season, the Bulls face off with the Pistons, this time in Detroit. The game tips off at 6 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here’s what to watch for:

Pistons’ last five games (1-4)

  • Dec. 20 — L at Celtics: 114-93

  • Dec. 18 — L vs. Raptors: 112-99

  • Dec. 16 — L vs. Wizards: 133-119

  • Dec. 14 — W at Rockets: 115-107

  • Dec. 12 — L vs. Mavericks: 122-111

Storyline(s) for each team

The Pistons enter play 11-18, one of two teams between the Bulls (11-19) and the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference (the 13-18 Hornets are the current occupants of that slot) and on the second night of a road-home back-to-back. That last point makes them especially vulnerable. This season, the Pistons are 1-4 on the second night of back-to-backs, averaging only 38.4 rebounds per game (compared to 42.9 overall) and shooting only 30.7% from 3-point range (37.6% overall). Tired legs could give the Bulls an edge tonight.

What’s more, the Bulls have already topped the Pistons twice this season, and the last affair was an absolute drubbing. In a 109-89 victory on Nov. 20, the Bulls flipped the script on every theoretical advantage the Pistons might have had, outrebounding them 69-54 and holding them to 33.7% field goal shooting in Blake Griffin’s first game of the season. 

Now, the Bulls are coming off an exhilarating — albeit ultimately uninspiring — comeback victory over the Wizards and are somehow only 1.5 games backs of that aforementioned eighth seed. The Bulls have proven they can beat this Pistons team already this season. With matchups against the Magic (12-17) and Hawks (6-23) next week, then a three-game run of the Bucks (25-4), Jazz (17-11) and Celtics (19-7) looming afterwards, this simply has to be a win. 

Side storyline: Lauri Markkanen is averaging 17.9 points on 51.2% shooting (41.1% from three) in the month of December. He's averaged 19 points and 6.5 rebounds in two games against Detroit this season, and shot 6-for-11 from three. His continued emergence has the potential to drastically alter the Bulls' season-long fate.

Player to watch: Andre Drummond

Drummond has become notorious for dominating the Bulls — in 29 career games against them, he averages 13.6 points, 14.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, and has secured 20+ rebounds in nine separate contests. A powerful interior scorer (66.3% shooting on nine restricted area FGA per game) and soul-crushing rebounder (16.5 boards per game, 4.6 of those offensive), he’s a prototypical foil for a Bulls team that hemorrhages looks around the rim and second-chance opportunities.

The last time these two teams met, Wendell Carter was up to the task of neutralizing him. Carter finished their Nov. 20 matchup with 12 points, 15 rebounds, plus a block and a steal, while Drummond had 6 points and 14 boards on only 3-for-10 shooting (this after putting up a 25/24 in their first matchup of the season on Nov. 1). These two figure to be key, tonight — the Bulls have proven prone to energy-sapped stretches when the glass and second-chance point battles don’t go their way. If Drummond gets going, that could become a theme. 

Matchup to watch: 3-point line

You wouldn’t know it if you only watched the Pistons play the Bulls, but they’ve been one of the more accurate long-distance shooting teams in the NBA this season. Detroit enters play with the fourth-highest 3-point percentage in the NBA (37.6%). Granted, they take only 32.4 3-pointers per game (19th in the league), but boast four players shooting above 39% on more than four 3-point attempts per game (Tony Snell, Langston Galloway, Luke Kennard and Markieff Morris). 

But in two games against the Bulls, they’ve shot a combined 14-for-62 (22.6%) from behind the arc, while the Bulls have shot 30-for-67 (44.8%). Regression to the mean might be reasonable to expect there, and Kennard (15.8 points, 39.7 3P%) should be fresh. He sat out last night’s game in Boston with a nagging knee issue, likely a strategic move to ensure he doesn't play two nights in a row. Griffin was also inactive on Friday, so keep an eye on each of their statuses. Every phase of the Pistons offensive attack suffers if those two are missing or not at full strength.

Obligatory Derrick Rose stats

Here’s a couple Derrick Rose nuggets, because I was rude and didn’t put him as the ‘player to watch.'

  • Rose is currently 13th in the NBA in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus.

  • This season, Rose is averaging his highest average assists total (6.0 per game) since the 2011-12 season.  

  • In his last 11 games, Rose is averaging 16.8 points and 6.6 assists (25 minutes per) on 47.6% shooting. His current 48.3% season-long shooting clip (on 13.9 attempts/g) would be the highest of his career.

  • Tonight is Rose’s seventh career matchup against the Bulls. In his first six, he’s averaging 19.8 points and 5.8 assists per game on 52.9% shooting.

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Recap of the NBA 2020 All-Star game in Chicago

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Recap of the NBA 2020 All-Star game in Chicago

David Haugh, Alex Maragos and Chris Bleck join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The NBA All-Star Game is over and the city was the biggest star of the weekend. The guys weigh in on the thrilling finish and if the rule changes saved the All-Star game.

5:30 - Michael Jordan was not in the "House That MJ Built." Should his Airness have had more of a presence?

9:00 - Michael Reinsdorf and John Paxson spent the weekend asking some of the sport's heavy hitters about how to fix their front office. Will the changes work?

13:00 - Jesse Rogers joins Kap from Cubs camp in Mesa to talk about Javy Baez's comments about not being ready to play some days. They also discuss Kris Bryant's candid comments about his contract and his future with the Cubs.

18:00 - The guys weigh in on Tom Rickett's comments on the state of the team's baseball budget.

26:00 - Chuck Garfien joins Kap from Sox camp in Glendale. They talk about the excitement level with everybody in camp, the team's thoughts on the Astros scandal, the chances Nick Madrigal breaks camp with the team and the Carlos Rodon's progress from Tommy John surgery.

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

 

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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NBA Power Rankings: Spirited Elam ending caps off a successful All-Star weekend

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USA Today

NBA Power Rankings: Spirited Elam ending caps off a successful All-Star weekend

The city of Chicago is drawing rave reviews for putting on a tremendous show at All-Star weekend. Sure, it was brutally cold last Thursday and Friday, but once inside the venues, the participants and spectators were treated to some spectacular entertainment.

The weekend ended with the most spirited All-Star game competition we’ve seen in decades... maybe ever. Not many people had heard about the Elam ending which establishes a target score to win the game rather than a typical timed format. It had received positive reviews during the summer TBT (The Basketball Tournament) which is a winner take all team competition involving players representing their former universities. Chris Paul suggested to NBA commissioner Adam Silver that the format could be a big hit for the All-Star game, and boy was he right.

The 10 players on the court competed with the ferocity normally saved for the NBA Finals. We got to enjoy the world’s best players completely locked in on the defensive end, refusing to give any ground, and going at each other with bone-jarring screens and physical back to the basket pounding.

Some analysts feared the 24 points added to the leading team’s total to establish the target score would result in a fourth quarter that would be over in just a few minutes. Instead, the greatest players in the game battled for almost 45 minutes, with the pressure to get to the target score resulting in missed free throws by normally excellent shooters and a blown uncontested lay-up by Team Giannis’ Kemba Walker.

Team LeBron wound up winning by two, anks to a made free throw by Chicago native Anthony Davis to reach the target score of 157, and when it was over, all the players talked about how much fun it was to compete under the new format.

Yes, the 24-point idea came about to honor the memory of Kobe Bryant, and you know that Bryant would have loved the way his brothers competed with all their will and talent. Matter of fact, my only concern was that the players were competing TOO hard. For example, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s chasedown block of LeBron James in the closing minutes was spectacular, but can you imagine if either superstar had been hurt by tumbling to the ground after meeting at the rim?

You can expect some tweaks to the format in future years, and it’s probably unlikely the players will compete with the same kind of physicality we saw Sunday night, given the special circumstances involved with the whole weekend serving as a tribute to Kobe.

But it looks like the NBA has found a format that will re-energize the All-Star game, and that will be the biggest takeaway from a very successful weekend in Chicago.

Now, a look at this week’s power rankings as the schedule resumes on Thursday.