Detroit Pistons

Four observations: Bulls take down Pistons in dominant effort

Four observations: Bulls take down Pistons in dominant effort

The Bulls took down Derrick Rose and the Pistons 109-89 behind a stellar effort from Lauri Markkanen. Four observations from the win:

First quarter fizzle, third quarter sizzle

The Bulls came out of the gates piping hot in this one, jumping out to a 19-6 lead behind seven quick points from Lauri Markkanen — those coming from two authoritative dunks and a three-pointer that bounced high off the back rim before dropping in. 

In just five minutes, though, the Pistons erased that deficit, riding a Langston Galloway heat-check to a 28-24 lead with a minute-and-a-half remaining in the first. Coby White stopped the bleeding with back-to-back three-pointers, and the two sides ended the quarter knotted at 30.

Jim Boylen talked before the game about limiting ‘streaks’ and credit to the Bulls for not letting that one be their undoing. From the beginning of the second quarter on, they generally maintained at least two possessions-worth of distance from Detroit before pulling away in the third.

The most exciting sequence of that stretch was lead by — who else? — White. Up nine, he ran a crisp screen-and-roll with Wendell Carter for an alley-oop, then followed that up with a pull-up transition three moments later to put the Bulls up 14 and force a Pistons timeout. They never looked back.

The starters pull their weight

After their last game against Milwaukee, Boylen said he considered riding a bench unit in crunch-time. But tonight, the starters pulled their weight.

For Markkanen specifically, this was exactly the type of performance the doctor ordered. He led all scorers with 24 points on 7-for-14 shooting (3-for-4 from three). It wasn’t a perfect game — a few bricked jumpers persisted, and at one point Andre Drummond sent him packing with a vicious block on a dunk attempt. Nevertheless, Markkanen posting a 20-point game for the first time since opening night is a welcome development.

Meanwhile, Tomas Satoransky bounced back from only logging 18 minutes in a hard-fought loss to Milwaukee to put up 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds (3-for-5 from three). He set up both of Markkanen’s first-quarter dunks and threw down a thunderous transition slam of his own to put the Pistons to bed in the fourth. 

Wendell Carter and Shaq Harrison were active and engaged on both ends all night, as well. Carter was up to the challenge of Drummond, finishing with 12 points and 15 rebounds (five offensive), his ninth double-double of the season. Harrison had 11 rebounds of his own, three steals and punched home a breakaway reverse drunk that ignited the UC, to boot. He finished with a team-high plus-minus of +29.

The one exception was Zach LaVine, who — again — struggled. He scored five points on 2-for-11 shooting and was invisible for long stretches.

Bulls simply dominate

It feels surreal to watch the Bulls so thoroughly dominate an opponent. A look at some pertinent team splits from this one:

Three-point shooting

Bulls: 14-for-27 (51.9%)
Pistons: 8-for-33 (24.2%)


Bulls: 55
Pistons: 46

Fast break points

Bulls: 18
Pistons: 9

Points in the paint

Bulls: 48
Pistons: 36

Detroit looked dreadful. Next.

Who’s chopping onions in here?

Some old pals were in the house on a night the Bulls honored Luol Deng — and not just Derrick Rose:

Just before introducing some friendly ghosts of mid-2000’s past, the team also debuted a tribute video for Deng:


“I think the love in Chicago is different than everywhere else,” Deng said before the game. “You become part of the city. I miss that. I just miss the city.”

The city misses you too, Luol. Even in a blowout victory, the cheers during that part of the night were louder than for any in-game play.

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What to watch for when Derrick Rose and the Pistons visit the Bulls for the second time this season

What to watch for when Derrick Rose and the Pistons visit the Bulls for the second time this season

In a matchup of two stumbling squads, the Bulls look to begin the process of righting the ship against the Pistons. The game tips off at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here’s what to watch for:

In spite of it all, a winnable game

The Bulls enter this game with a bad, no-good, rotten 4-10 record. Lucky for them, their opponent is 4-9, and has lost five of their last six.

En route to their own disappointing start to the season, the Pistons have dealt with injuries to key players in Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose, devolved into one of the lowest rated defenses in the league and struggled mightily with turnovers. They’re actually a pretty good shooting team, but play at such a slow pace (99.96 possessions per 48 minutes, 25th in the NBA), that they haven’t been able to fully maximize that efficiency in the way many modern offenses do.

Oh, man. They’re kind of the anti-Bulls.

In that vein, the area in which Detroit struggles the most could play directly into the Bulls’ hands. Literally. The Pistons are currently tied for 27th in the league in turnovers (17.5) per game and 28th in opponent points off turnovers (28th) per game, while the Bulls rank first in both opponent turnovers (18.9) and points off turnovers (21.9) per game. 

In the first meeting of the season between the two teams — a six-point Bulls win on Nov. 1 — the turnover battle was largely even. But tonight, look for that and the Bulls’ ability to turn takeaways into fast break opportunities to be a factor.

Holding ground in the paint and on the wing

Sure, the Bulls have already beaten these Pistons. But much has changed for both teams since their first meeting — chiefly: Blake Griffin is back for Detroit, and both Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison are missing for Chicago. (Hutchison was inactive for their first matchup, too, but Porter started and notched 22 points and six rebounds while shooting 3-for-4 from three.)

Andre Drummond beat the Bulls up on the glass en route to 24 rebounds and Detroit dominated the points-in-the-paint battle 66-40 on Nov. 1. And while not yet at full strength, the addition of Griffin to Detroit’s rotation should only exacerbate those disparities — especially considering the struggles the Bulls have had rebounding, protecting the rim and scoring around the basket. Losing the long, solid and athletic Hutchison just hours before the contest doesn’t help, either.

Boylen may choose to counter with another dose of Daniel Gafford, a strategy many Bulls fans — and players — would certainly endorse. Monday night, the Bulls both outrebounded and won the points-in-the-paint battle against the Bucks, a great rebounding and interior scoring squad. It’s hard to credit all of that to Gafford, but he remains an intriguing option in spurts in this matchup.

On the wing, it’s worth monitoring what buttons Boylen pushes with his rotations. He’ll likely have to call upon Denzel Valentine and/or Shaq Harrison to eat minutes out there (something he’s shied away from doing early in the season), and don’t be surprised to see three-guard lineups — a configuration Boylen has demonstrated an affinity for — galore.

Can Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen bounce back?

Of late, the cornerstones of the rebuild have looked anything but. In Monday’s game against Milwaukee, LaVine and Markkanen combined to shoot 6-for-28, and spearheaded a crunch-time unit that failed to score a field goal in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter.

Their struggles go deeper than that one game, but a Detroit defense that has had issues defending on the perimeter presents an opportunity for each of them to bounce back. In the aforementioned Nov. 1 matchup, LaVine notched 26 points, five rebounds and three assists on 8-for-20 shooting. Markkanen tallied 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals (3-for-7 from three), but took only nine shots. Neither of those lines are stamping them tickets to All-Star weekend, but any hint of improvement would be a welcome development. 

Right now, the hope — especially for Markkanen — is that things can only go up from here.

Derrick Rose returns (again)

Last season, there were ‘MVP’ chants. This year, a standing ovation. What will another Derrick Rose return to the UC hold? No one can say for certain, but at the very least, a reunion with an old friend:


And, of course, there’s a game to be played, too. As mentioned, Rose has been in and out of the Pistons rotation early in the season with a nagging hamstring injury. When he’s played, he’s been excellent, averaging 18.4 points and 5.8 assists in 24.5 minutes per game with 54.1/37.5/89.7 (all career-bests) shooting splits. 

And he always shows out in Chicago. In three games as a visitor against the Bulls, Rose has averaged 20.7 points, 8.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and two steals per game on 25-for-48 (52.1%) shooting.

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At peace on and off the court, Derrick Rose is thriving with Pistons

At peace on and off the court, Derrick Rose is thriving with Pistons

Derrick Rose is 2-0 as a visitor at the United Center, so forgive him if he still feels comfortable in the arena he called home for eight years.

Rose certainly looked and sounded that way Thursday, smiling as he got jumpers up after Pistons practice at the UC. Afterwards, he spoke eloquently about the peace he has found in his life and game, and even joked about the gigantic new scoreboard he stood under as he spoke.

“We never had this Jumbotron. We never had those effects up there,” Rose said. “It’s great to see they’re adapting to the new age. Of course, that’s [Bulls chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] for you.”

Yes, Rose is in a good place, on and off the court.

On it, he’s averaging 20.4 points in 25 minutes per game on 55.3 percent shooting in his first season with the Pistons, who signed him to a two-year, $15 million deal in free agency. Off it, his family has grown to three children, and he's enjoying living in suburban Detroit.

“When you hear things from afar you don’t know what to expect. But everything has been on the up-and-up,” Rose said. “Living there has been great. The organization has been great. The staff has been great. I’ve been in awe just being in these surroundings.”

The trials and tribulations Rose has endured — some of them self-inflicted — to arrive here are well documented: The knee injuries, the surgeries, the rehabs. A civil rape trial in which he was found not liable on all counts. Going AWOL from both the Knicks and Cavaliers to clear his head. Getting traded by the Cavaliers, and waived by the Jazz, before then-Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau, his former ally in Chicago, threw him a lifeline.

“Man, I’m just happy to be here,” Rose said. “The spot I was in mentally a couple years ago, I’m just happy I weaved through it, got through it somehow and some way with my family and friends that were around me. I’m just grateful. And like Isiah (Thomas) said, I’m just trying to cherish these moments.”

Rose has spent time with Thomas, a Pistons Hall of Famer and fellow Chicago native, since signing with the team and spoke of him almost reverentially, quickly noting Thomas was the only player to beat Michael Jordan in his prime.

“And it was a point guard,” Rose said. “Being in that spot, understanding the spot he was in, the load he took on every night, I think being here I appreciate him even more. Even having conversations with him and understanding who he is as a person and as a player and the principles that he stood on. I realize it and understand it’s just Chicago. You know what I mean? The way that he was brought up, his mentality, just everything. It just glows off his aura. He’s a winner. And after talking to him, I see why.”

Winning is what still drives Rose. He has accomplished plenty individually, including his Rookie of the Year and MVP seasons with the Bulls. But he's no longer in that dominant lead role. He can still score, obviously, but he’s had to adjust as the injuries mounted and his career progressed.

“It takes maturity. It takes a lot of learning from my past. And learning that some of the situations that I was put in in the past, I put on myself,” Rose said. “I had to grow up and understand what I was doing. It became clear that I was going to have another opportunity. And I said if I had ever had another opportunity like I had in New York that I would grab it.

“Me grabbing it is being vocal with the team, expressing how I feel and understanding that it’s not about me. I still have a lot left in the tank. I still want to win a championship. There’s no reason why we should be doing this if we’re not trying to win the championship. Just trying to change the culture here because it’s a rich culture.”

There aren’t many players in NBA history who have reached the heights Rose did and then experienced such lows. Asked how he can handle moving from a MVP to reserve level, Rose turned serious.

“I don’t have, like, a pompous attitude. I come in and listen, for one thing. I understand where I’m at, the circumstances I have in front of me,” Rose said. “I feel like I could be put in any situation with any group or any team and I’ll find my way in. My talent trumps everything.”

Indeed. Rose spoke Thursday on the one-year anniversary of dropping 50 points for the Timberwolves in a home victory over the Jazz. That performance drew “MVP!” chants similar to those he heard from the United Center crowd on Dec, 26, 2018 when he posted 24 points and eight assists in the Timberwolves’ blowout victory over the Bulls.

Rose’s 50-point game last season drew almost universal love and praise from around the league. Teammates and ex-teammates cheer for Rose because of all he has endured. Pistons coach Dwane Casey said he has seen this first-hand already, even as he tries to balance not overusing Rose.

In a nod to all he has endured, Rose is on an unofficial minutes limit to keep his body fresh.

“It’s very difficult. You want him out there more than his minute allotment allows. He’s such a dynamic player. He brings so much to the table,” Casey said. “Our team changes when he’s on the floor. We get faster. We’re tougher. We’re more physical. But there’s only a limited amount of time he can be out there. We have to be disciplined.

“In shorter minutes, he’s still the same, explosive player. Maybe not as quick as he was a kid or as he was in his MVP year. But he’s savvy enough. He’s tough enough.”

Casey then offered the example of Rose missing layups on three drives late in the Pistons’ home victory Monday over the Pacers and still owning the mental toughness to convert the game-winning drive in the waning seconds.

“He’s gutsy. He’s confident,” Casey said. “I root for him. He’s a man’s man. He holds himself accountable. Knowing what he’s been through with his life and career, you want him to be successful.”

Rose is back to being that, even after his widely criticized decision to sit out the entire 2012-13 season following his first knee surgery to repair his torn left ACL. Load management and making sure players’ bodies aren’t overtaxed is all the rage now. The Nets’ Kevin Durant and Warriors’ Klay Thompson are both expected to miss the entire season following torn Achilles and ACL injuries, respectively.

Does Rose believe this new emphasis vindicates his decision?

“I mean, it’s not for me to say that. It’s funny though. At the time, I knew what was right for my body,” he said. “My body is different than any other player in the league. And I feel like I needed a year. Even though I was on the court, warming up before games, this and that, and people saw me, I felt like I wasn’t ready at the time.

“Now that it’s called load management, it’s just funny how things change. It’s probably only a few people that would recognize that. I always say, when a young kid or student of the game stumbles on my story 20 or 30 years from now, they’ll see the nuances within my story and understand I was a stand-up individual.”

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