Points galore: Bulls 120, Pistons 87

On a night when the Bulls — who have been a notoriously awful scoring team all season — set season-highs in points (120), field goal percentage (57.1) and margin of victory (33), it’s worth asking the question: was the end result a function of the Bulls rising or merely a sign of how far the Pistons have fallen?

Or was it a little of Column A and a little of Column B?

The Pistons had been one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference for most of the 2000s. Then Joe Dumars sent Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess to Denver in exchange for Allen Iverson and everything went to hell. But the experts insisted the trade that exiled Detroit’s heart and soul was part of Dumars’ master plan to rebuild the Pistons on the quick…a plan that culminated in him spending $90 million on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva last summer.

So far that plan has been a miserable failure.

Last night’s blowout was Detroit’s worst loss of the season, both because it set a season-high for margin of defeat and because it increased their losing streak to 13. That’s the most consecutive losses the Pistons have had since the end of the 1993-94 season. There are mitigating circumstances, of course. Detroit has had a rash of injuries to key players. Tayshaun Prince didn’t play last night, and Ben Gordon logged only six minutes because of a recurring hamstring injury.

Speaking of which, Gordon and Villanueva — Dumars’ big offseason acquisitions — combined to score 2 points on 1-for-11 shooting. Do you think Pistons fans want their $90 million back? I bet Dumars sure does.

And make no mistake: the Bulls must not become the Pistons. And I’m not talking about this season’s implosion. I’m talking about next summer, when Chicago will have lots of money to throw at free agents. The Bulls absolutely must not spend foolishly if they cannot lure a big-time FA to the Windy City. Detroit is now a blueprint for what a team should not do with a financial windfall.

Meanwhile…are the Bulls finally finding themselves? They have now back-to-back blowout wins at home against a couple of the league’s worst teams, so their scoring surplus over the last two games is probably a bit deceiving. However, they were trending upward even before the Timberwolves and Pistons came to town.

After scoring 100 or more only three times in their first 28 games, the Bulls have now scored 100+ five times in the last eight games (plus a 98-point game in Detroit against the Pistons). Their three-point shooting is picking up too, as the Bulls have hit 45 percent of their treys (42-for-93) over the last eight games. And John Salmons has been on fire, hitting nearly 60 percent of his three-pointers (19-for-32) in the nine games since he was removed from the starting lineup.

Derrick Rose has been lighting it up, too, by both scoring and dishing off to teammates. Last night, he finished with 22 poings (11-for-13) and a game-high 9 assists. Rose has now scored 20+ points in 11 of his last 18 games. And maybe even more importantly, he’s compiled at least 7 assists in the last six games, including three games with 9 assists. He hasn’t exactly transformed into Steve Nash, but both the quantity and quality of his passes have increased as of late.

The Bulls have won six of their last nine contests, and the three losses were close games they could have won. So what’s up with the improved play?

Said Vinny Del Negro: “We have Tyrus [Thomas] and Kirk [Hinrich] back and we’ve had some practice time together. Guys know their role off the bench because we have our rotation set with guys helping. And the schedule has been more in our favor.”

Sounds simple enough.

The schedule won’t be in Chicago’s favor for long though. The Bulls now face a stretch where they play 10 of their next 12 games on the road, and they will face the Celtics, Suns, Rockets, Spurs, Thunder, and Hawks in that span. It’s going to be rough. Maybe even very rough.

But then again, we might be seeing signs of good things for the Bulls.

Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

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6 Responses to Points galore: Bulls 120, Pistons 87

  1. mikemayer3@hotmail.com'
    thirdsaint January 12, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    I have to say, maybe Rose’s assists number is going up because our players are actually making their shots now. I always thought he did a great job of driving into the paint and drawing the defense with him.

    It’s just that last year and earlier this year they weren’t knocking down the open shots like they were supposed to. Now that Salmons is sizzling among other players we are seeing Rose’s assists number rise. Isn’t it amazing what knocking down your shots will do for the team?

  2. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale January 12, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    thirdsaint — You certainly make a valid point…Rose had four of his assists on drive-and-kick long-range jumpers in the first seven minutes of the game.

    But Rose is also making some passes he just wasn’t making (or trying) earlier in the season. He had a sweet thread-the-needle pass to Joakim and a nifty alley-oop to Tyrus on back-to-back possessions last night which better illustrated what I was talking about.

    Of course, as Vinny noted, having a full compliment of healthy players and practice time helps. Obviously, Rose missed some preseason games, guys were out with injury and his teammates weren’t hitting shots in the early going. As long as the team stays healthy and remembers how to shoot the basketball, his assist numbers should remain pretty solid.

  3. sean@rmeg.biz'
    Pharaoh January 12, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    Basketball is such a rhythm sport. When a team suffers injuries in basketball, even to complimentary/role players – it will usually have a huge impact on the team as a whole. This rings especially true with a tema like the Bulls, as they lack the upper echelon star talent that the top 5-6 teams have.

    I’m glad the Bulls are back to full strength now, as we can truly evaluate this team. I still see #5-6 seed within the grasp for this team.

    Love the column Matt!

    Check for your boy Pharaoh on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/regal-radio every Monday @ 10pm chating with Champ and D of The Varsity Show as the Bulls season continues to unfold.

  4. erickward@outsidetheclubhouse.com'
    Erick January 12, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    I’m curious to see how long this string of good offensive games last. The Bulls may be scoring 100 points, but a lot of their shots are still coming from long range.

    With everyone healthy, I’m not sure if they’re closer to the 100-point team or the team that would regularly struggle to reach double-digits in a quarter.

  5. Russell January 13, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    I think Luol Deng has been a bit underestimated since the season started. If it wasn’t for him, the bulls would be right along there with Detroit. While Salmons was on his slump, and when Kirk wasnt the “captain Kirk” we knew four years back it was Deng and Rose picking up there slack. I mean i think Deng’a finally coming through on the fat contract he got a few years back. Now all they need is either Bosh or Wade. If they can land a big name FA by summer,the average chicago bulls we talk about today will be a dynasty…hands down!


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