The Chicago Bulls lost to the Detroit Pistons Sunday night for the first time in 18 tries.
The short-handed Chicago Bulls paid a visit to The Palace of Auburn Hills Sunday night. Entering the game, Chicago was the worst scoring team in the entire NBA. That being said, it had won 18 straight against the Detroit Pistons, and something had to give.
Unfortunately for Chicago, that something would be in Detroit’s favor. The road team fell 99-85, ending the impressive streak.
Right out of the gate, the Bulls did an excellent job of turning defense into offense. They were pushing the tempo and scoring in transition, and they jumped out to a 9-2 lead about three-and-a-half minutes in.
The problem was that they weren’t the only ones finding success in that fashion. Detroit closed out the quarter on a 16-8 run, and it did it by quickly challenging the Bulls defense on each possession.
The Pistons continued to win the hustle plays beyond the first quarter. They were scrapping for loose balls, making backdoor cuts and attacking the rim any chance they got. Defensively, the Bulls' bigs did a good job in one-on-one assignments, but when the perimeter defense broke down, the Pistons got the open looks that kept them in control.
By the end of the night, Chicago was beaten in almost every major statistical category. The team was outshot, out-rebounded and out-energized from the second quarter on. It’s no longer a surprise when the offense struggles, but allowing 99 points and 53.4 percent shooting is a recipe for disaster with the playoffs right around the corner.
Nate Robinson has been guilty on many occasions of poor shooting, and Sunday night proved to be one of those times.
Heading into halftime, Robinson led the team in scoring with 10 points. The problem was that he got it on 11 shots, making just four of them.
Whether in the half-court or transition game, Robinson is always willing to make plays. That playmaking aspiration is what sometimes gets him in trouble, but it's also what helps the team establish the kind of momentum it did in the opening period.
Take the good with the bad when it comes to Robinson, as he finished with 18 points on 8-of-19 shooting with one assist and five personal fouls.
Kirk Hinrich played the 2-guard spot alongside Nate Robinson Sunday night, but he proved to be much more of a facilitator than his backcourt mate.
On the evening, Hinrich was able to score just seven points on 2-of-8 shooting. While those numbers may indicate inefficient play, you have to look at his ability to impact other areas.
He collected eight assists and five rebounds, and he did a good job of setting up Carlos Boozer down on the block.
The beautiful thing about Hinrich's performance is that his value can't be seen on the stat sheet alone. On defense—and in loose-ball situations—he was hustling to make the little plays. He had trouble keeping up with his assignment on occasion, but he did a solid job helping convert steals into buckets.
Chasing down rebounds and deflections don't always get noticed, but they're the kind of plays that make this squad dangerous when other areas are clicking.
With Luol Deng out, Jimmy Butler earned another chance to show how valuable he can be for the Chicago Bulls.
In the opening minutes of the contest, the 23-year-old scored on two of his first three attempts. He was getting out on the break as well as anybody else, and even when he wasn't the scorer, he was filling lanes correctly and keeping the defense honest.
Like Kirk Hinrich, you don't get the whole story simply by looking at the box score. The 6'7" forward uses his length to disrupt opposing offenses and break up passing lanes, and he did just those things Sunday against the Pistons.
There's no denying that this club wants Luol Deng back—especially with the playoffs rapidly approaching—but with Butler playing as competently as he is, fans have to feel good about what they're seeing at this juncture.
Carlos Boozer was the go-to option for the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, which should come as no surprise to those who have watched this team play.
In 41 minutes, Boozer was able to score a team-high 21 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Boozer was aggressive every time he caught the ball, and it can be argued the team should have looked his way more than they already did.
On the glass, the 6'8" forward did a good job of swallowing up what came his way. With the Detroit Pistons playing Andre Drummond alongside Greg Monroe, he had a tough time combating the big-man tandem, but he did manage to grab 10 boards of his own in the end.
Boozer was a minus-eight in the plus/minus category, but that mark proved to be the best on the team of anyone who played more than 21 minutes.
Joakim Noah returned to the lineup Sunday night after missing eight straight games to injury.
During his seven first-half minutes, he didn't attempt a field goal, but he did manage to make all four of his free throws. Defensively is where his impact was felt, as he did a good job bodying up the impressive size of the Detroit Pistons frontcourt.
After playing so few minutes early, Noah began the third quarter with a bit of a spark. He made the first bucket of the period—a long jumper—and he continued to look active when the Pistons attacked the rim on offense.
The contrast between the first half and the second half, whether it was intentional or not, was smart for Noah. He needed time to integrate back into the offense, and by lulling the defense to sleep early, he surprised his opponents late.
In 21 total minutes, Noah recorded 13 points, made all four of his shots and grabbed seven rebounds while playing up-tempo almost the entire way.
With the Chicago Bulls being short-handed, they played the Detroit Pistons without a true sixth man in their rotation. Nobody really stepped up and took over in the second unit, but Nazr Mohammed deserves credit for his efforts on defense.
The big man came into the game and was challenged immediately by the young duo that Detroit had on the floor. He did a good job of staying physical, and he managed to collect two blocks in just 10 first-half minutes.
The problem is that he couldn't collect another block the rest of the way, and he only played seven minutes in the entire second half.
With Joakim Noah playing limited time early, Mohammed was able to play a decent role during that stint. However, when the starting center made his mark late, that meant the backup was no longer needed.
The 35-year-old ended up scoring two points on 25 percent shooting.
Any time you have an injury-plagued lineup, it takes a major toll on the bench. Not only do the reserves need to pick up the slack, but they also become short-handed, as backups become starters.
Sunday night brought that fact to the surface, as scoring became a rare sight for the team's second unit.
Against the Detroit Pistons, Chicago played four guys meaningful minutes off the bench. Nazr Mohammed, Marco Belinelli, Daequan Cook and Vladimir Radmanovic combined for eight points, five rebounds and two assists.
Aside from a lack of points, the bigger concern is field-goal percentage. If they had scored their points with efficiency, it wouldn't have been a problem. Missing shots, however, was a theme, as they went just 3-of-15 between the four of them.