The Bulls needed a win so definitive to wash the terrible taste of the last week from their mouths and they delivered so surely, “Another One Bites the Dust” should’ve been played shortly after the opening tip Monday at the United Center.
They played like they were tired of losing, and more specifically, tired of losing to the Detroit Pistons and put together their most complete and dominant performance of the year in a 113-82 drubbing that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
Perhaps the greatest contrast in performances from Friday night was the halftime box score, when the Bulls had more field goals (32) in 24 minutes than they did in the 48-minute stinker they put up against the Bucks (30), and equaled the scoring output of 69 points.
Rajon Rondo neared a triple double with a season-high 14 assists to go with 10 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes, and all five Bulls scored in double-figures.
“I thought Rajon got us off to a great start offensively, he was up and down the floor and got 10 assists by halftime,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to give the guys a lot of credit for stepping up, last week was embarrassing for everybody.
“The way we were able to snap out of it tonight, and have the guys play tonight.”
The problem is, nobody knows which Bulls team will show up on a given night, not even Hoiberg. But when this team plays like this, they can beat anybody—the exact opposite of Friday when the way they played would have them losing to the Washington Generals.
“Games come quick in this league,” said Jimmy Butler, who scored a team-high 19. “Everything looks better when you make shots. If you’re not making shots it’s hard to win. We got out to an early lead and for once actually sustained it.”
Taj Gibson made all eight of his field goals in 19 minutes to score 16 points with four rebounds, the first time a Bull shot 8-for-8 or better since Jamal Crawford in 2002.
“If somebody could figure out if a shootaround could carry to a game, I’d love to hear it,” Hoiberg said. “I wish I had the recipe for reading body language and that kind of thing. I don’t have a degree in that category.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
Speaking of body language, it was the bench that opened eyes and used every minute of Monday’s two-and-a-half hour practice to their advantage.
Nikola Mirotic returned from his banishment and Doug McDermott came out and paced the Bulls after the starters got off to a 12-2 start, hitting their first seven shots off the bench—and showing how diverse the Bulls can be when those two are threats.
They were devils in the activity department, not standing on the perimeter waiting on passes from double-teams but flying to open spots on the floor after stops or in the set offense.
Mirotic had two jumpers where he took two definitive dribbles instead of pump-faking himself into dizziness, and McDermott curled around weak-side screens to hit jumpers—midrange jumpers at that.
“We played with an edge, an energy,” Mirotic said. “Played unselfish, 34 assists and defensively great. That’s the way we had to play. After a couple losses, our team found a way to play. And right now we have to find the way to keep playing like that.”
So by the time they needed to let it fly from the long line, they already had a rhythm and plenty of confidence, as both scored 13, contributing to the Bulls shooting a whopping 73 percent in the first half and taking an even more amazing 38-point lead before the half, setting for a 69-34 score.
Dwyane Wade got the Bulls off and running with fresh legs, getting in the lane and finishing while also earning a couple fast break buckets that sent his former coach Stan Van Gundy to the smelling salts and timeouts to try to stop the internal bleeding.
Wade scored 13 with five assists and four rebounds in 22 minutes, taking just six shots, and Butler added six assists with his scoring (all in the first quarter), hitting on six of his seven shots in 30 minutes.
It was Hoiberg’s dream of ball movement, where they tallied 24 assists in the first half alone with their 32 field goals, finishing with 34 and shooting 60 percent with eight 3-pointers.
The lead was quietly achieved on keeping Bulls menace Andre Drummond from getting to the glass. Drummond has been a terror in his career against the Bulls, averaging 14 rebounds and having a 20-20 game recently, but Robin Lopez held him to four boards and nine points.
Reserve Jon Leuer led the Pistons with 16 points off the bench and Tobias Harris scored 10 for the Pistons, but in a game was the most pitiful showing for the Bulls’ rivals, they picked a perfect team to rise from the ashes, living up to their title of Team Bi-Polar.