Do you remember what you were doing on the night of December 23, 2008? That’s okay, neither do we.
If you’re a Detroit Pistons fan, you may have a slight recollection. That night, more than 3 years ago, was the last time your team beat the Chicago Bulls.
Things were a lot different back then. Derrick Rose was a rookie, Ben Gordon was a Bull, Rip Hamilton was a Piston and Allen Iverson (Detroit’s starting point guard on that night) was relevant. Those were the days when Lebron’s Cleveland Cavaliers dominated the Eastern Conference Central Division, while Detroit and Chicago battled to just get in to the NBA’s postseason tournament.
Detroit had a good opportunity to end their 13-game head-to-head drought against Chicago Friday night. The Bulls were playing without Hamilton for the 37th time this year. They were also missing MVP Derrick Rose, who sat for the ninth consecutive game. Hamilton, who started at shooting guard during his nine years as a member of the Pistons, was a late scratch. Coach Thibodeau made the decision that it was in the team’s best interest to hold out Hamilton sometime shortly before tip-off.
“We’ve been patient this long,” Thibodeau said. “I just want to make sure it is the right time for him.”
The Bulls were able to extend their head-to-head win streak against the Pistons to 14 games, with a 83-71 victory, behind strong performances from the team’s starting front court. Luol Deng led all scorers with 20 points. Carlos Boozer (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (19 points, 12 rebounds) each recorded a double-double.
Detroit was also without two main contributors, starting guard Rodney Stuckey’s hamstring kept him out of the game, and the team’s sixth man, former Bull Ben Gordon, sat with a groin injury.
Tonight wasn’t much different from the vast majority of games the Bulls have played without Rose. Chicago dominated the glass (out-rebounding Detroit 53-37) but went through long periods where they struggled to score the ball, which means they never could quite pull away. They were able to come out on top largely because they play better team defense than anyone in the league.
Those long scoring droughts are a direct product of playing without the MVP. C.J. Watson and John Lucas III have done their best to pick up the slack. Each does a great job running the offense, but they both have questionable decision-making skills, creating a tendency to jack up ill-advised shots. The point guards combined for 13 points and 6 assists while shooting 4 for 18 from the field on the night.
But again, Thibs gets this team to play defense, something they can always fall back on when the shots aren’t falling. In Ronnie Brewer, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah, the Bulls have three very good individual defenders. More importantly, no matter which five men are on the court at any given time, they always do a great job of working together as one. On Friday night, they held Detroit to 36.9% shooting from the field. The Pistons fell in to the trap of trying to play one-on-one basketball, while lacking a dominant one-on-one player.
The Bulls look to keep up their winning ways Sunday afternoon when they head to Oklahoma City to take on the team with the best record in the Western Conference. Rip Hamilton is questionable for the game, while Derrick Rose is unlikely to play in this potential NBA Finals preview. The game will be nationally televised on ABC with coverage beginning at 12:00 PM CST.