I know I’ve said it before. I’m going to say it again:
The second game of back-to-backs is a gut check for any team.
Even when that game is against a sub-.500 lightweight like the Pistons.
This is especially true when the game is on the road. Extra especially true when both games are roadies. Toss in the fact that the games were played on a major holiday weekend and…
…you get the point.
In a situation like that, you can almost always expect a little less lift in the legs, which in turn often leads to poor shooting. Chicago certainly obliged in that department, converting only 39.6 percent of their field goal attempts.
Fortunately, the Bulls brought their hard hats and went to work on the boards, winning the rebounding battle 55-39. That included a 19-11 edge on the offensive glass. Those 19 offensive boards led to 24 second-chance points, which obviously made the biggest of differences.
Said Detroit coach John Kuester: “They manhandled us in the post area. They had 13 offensive rebounds in the first half, and we just can’t allow that to happen.”
However, they did let it happen, which is a big reason why the Pistons are 10-20 on the year and a far, far cry from the perennial championship contender of a few years ago.
But hey, that’s Detroit’s problem, not ours. And the Motor City’s loss has coincided with the Windy City’s gain. The Bulls and Pistons have flip-flopped positions and status. Okay, that may be a little premature to say, but Chicago is on the rise while Detroit has faded into the crowd of bottom feeders that are hoping for a top lottery pick.
You know. One like Derrick Rose. The Great Poohdini had trouble locating the basket (9-for-23) and struggled to hold onto the ball (6 turnovers), but he still scored 23 points and finished with game-highs in rebounds (12) and assists (8). That rebound total equaled Derrick’s career-high.
Apparently, Rose was doing a Joakim Noah impression. Somebody get him a wig full of crazy hair.
Rose also had his typical four or five plays that make you go “wow.” Watching this kid kick on his afterburners is something special.
Oh, and how about that Carlos Boozer guy? I can’t say enough about his contributions. It wasn’t the gaudy stats (a game-high 31 points on 12-for-20 shooting to go with 11 rebounds), or the fact that his impressive performance came the day after a huge effort against the Knicks (26 points and 19 rebounds), or even that this was his seventh double-double in the 14 games he’s played so far this season.
It’s that he takes pressure off of Rose.
I’m just saying…it’s nice to see the Bulls have a real, honest-to-goodness, end-of-game offensive option that doesn’t require Derrick to dribble around, over and through double and triple-teaming defenses. Boozer is the bruiser management hoped he’d be.
Now cross your fingers and hope he stays healthy.
Honestly, this game never should have gone to overtime. The Bulls should have wrapped things up in the fourth quarter. And they probably would have except for Tracy McGrady.
Beware the formerly great player with something to prove. Remember: McGrady wanted to join the Bulls this summer and was rejected. I have no doubt that was on his mind tonight. How else do you explain his 13 fourth quarter points, which included a huge three-pointer with 1:09 left after the Bulls had taken an 85-78 lead and seemingly put the game away.
Make no mistake: McGrady was hitting tough shots against aggressive defense. Tracy turned back the clock, if only for about 12 minutes. It was almost enough to beat the Bulls.
Another error was that the Bulls — who were, again, so dominant in the rebounding department — gave up three consecutive offensive rebounds on Detroit’s final possession in regulation. Give a team, any team, enough chances to toss in a shot and they’ll do it eventually. And the Pistons did.
Then the Bulls got “lucky” in overtime when Tayshaun Prince committed back-to-back-to-back turnovers, practically giving the game away. Call is Christmas a day late for the Bullies. Hey, an ugly win is a win nonetheless.
Call it a successful gut check.