The Bulls outscored the Pistons 28-14 in the fourth quarter to cap a comeback win after trailing by as many as 17 points. This victory — combined with Indiana’s loss to the Trail Blazers in Portland — moved the Bulls (25-16) back into first place in the Central Division.
The home team needed a herculean effort over the final 14 minutes to rally from a huge deficit against a Detroit squad that is 16-26 overall and only 4-15 on the road. The Bulls played with little energy or interest for the first three quarters of this game…a continuing trend at home against lesser teams.
Key Stats Part 1:
The Bulls forced the Pistons into only 12 turnovers, but they scored 18 points off those miscues.
Unfortunately, Chicago committed 15 turnovers for 19 points going the other way.
Key Stats Part 2:
The Bulls outscored the Pistons 14-5 in fast break points. The majority of those transition points came after the Bulls fell behind and they — led by Nate Robinson — had to start pushing the tempo.
Key Stats Part 3:
The Pistons outscored the Bulls 44-30 in the paint and many of those were scored directly at the rim. Detroit’s guards kept getting penetration — especially off high screen and roll plays — and hit several layups both contested and uncontested. That said, the Pistons had only 6 points in the paint during the fourth quarter. Speaking of which…
Key Stats Part 4:
The Pistons shot 6-for-21 (28 percent) in the fourth quarter, including 5-for-15 (33 percent) on two-pointers and 1-for-6 (16 percent) on three-pointers.
Meanwhile, the Bulls shot 10-for-18 (55 percent) in the fourth, including 8-for-15 (53 percent) on twos and 2-for-3 (66 percent) on threes.
Player of the Game:
Nate Robinson. The Bulls looked like they were wading through mud for most of the game. Seriously, I was ready to storm the locker room and check to see if they were wearing shoe weights. Then Robinson struck like a bolt from the blue and turned the game around.
Little Nate’s stats were pretty good — 21 minutes, 11 points, 4-for-9, 7 assists — and he hit some tough shots. But, as is usually the case Robinson, his energy and enthusiasm were bigger factors than his numbers. He excited the crowd and his teammates. He pushed the ball at every opportunity. He set the tone for the comeback.
Said Robinson: ”I can speak for [Noah] when I say this: We just play for the fun of the game. We just have fun and the energy’s always going to be there. We just try to have that snowball effect on everybody else in the arena, and it does. For us, that’s our biggest [addition] to the game: coming in and bringing energy. That’s the gift that we can bring to everybody else is to play as hard as you can and to have fun. We have fun out there and you can see it on guys’ faces. Everybody’s involved, the crowd, even Coach a couple times. Deep down inside, Thibs wants to smile but he doesn’t. But he really does sometimes.”
I think Thibodeau’s face might crack if he smiled.
Player of the Game Runner Up:
Jimmy Butler. He played a fantastic all-around game with 18 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and a blocked shot. He was the only Bulls player who was really hustling for the first three quarters. This was most evident late in the second quarter when he rebounded his own missed layup and dunked the ball home.
Butler also had two key clutch buckets: A no-hesitation 17-footer to put the Bulls up 79-73 with 4:22 left and then a cold-blooded three-pointer to put the Bulls up 82-80 with 1:51 remaining after the Pistons had retaken the lead.
I should also note that Butler’s D was a big reason Tayshaun Prince went 5-for-12 and scored only 11 points.
Jimmy has played extremely well in the absence of Luol Deng (hamstring). And while Lu’s starting spot is definitely secure, maybe this stretch will convince Thibs that he doesn’t need to play Deng 40+ minutes every night. Especially since Butler provides a little more speed and athleticism than Luol does.
Play of the Game:
The Bulls were leading 82-80 with about 30 seconds left when Rodney Stuckey posted up on Kirk Hinrich. Taj Gibson left his man to make a soft double team on Stuckey, Noah failed to rotate into Gibson’s slot, and Stucky dished the ball to Jason Maxiell for an easy layup that tied the game.
It was a bad defensive sequence.
That sequence was quickly erased by the following amazing hustle play by Noah:
Said Noah: “It was a dangerous play because I kept it in play. It could have went either way. If they get the ball, it’s a four-on-five fast break on the other side. Fortunately, Marco got the ball. I didn’t really see the play, but I just heard the crowd and it was an and-1. The basketball gods were on our side again.”
Added Thibs: “That was incredible. I don’t know how he got to it. It was an incredible play, and then Marco making the shot and hitting the free throw. It is big-time stuff. Joakim was something. He had 18 rebounds and did not come out in the second half. He made great hustle plays. I thought our team spirit was terrific. That unit that finished the game really inspired us.”
It sure seems that Noah and Thibs have made up after Noah’s benching against the Grizzlies.
A few observations about this play:
1. Terrible initial shot by Marco Belinelli. He rushed it.
2. None of the Pistons reacted after Noah saved the ball. I guess they all assumed that either a) the ball was out of bounds before Noah touched it or b) Noah was standing out of bounds when he touched it.
3. Despite the rushed shot, Belinelli showed great presence of mind in corralling the saved ball and swooping in for the layup.
4. The Pistons compounded their lack-of-reaction error by committing an incredibly weak foul on Belinelli during the layup.
The Rise of Taj:
Gibson hasn’t been playing well lately, right? Well, he played well last night: 24 minutes, 5-for-7 from the field, 4-for-5 from the line, 14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, 1 assist.
Gibson’s defense during the final 12 minutes was a big key to the comeback. Taj also had some clutch fourth quarter scores:
7:05: Went 2-for-2 from the line to tie the game at 73-73
6:03: Hit a layup to put the Bulls up 75-73
5:05: Nails a 14-footer to put the Bulls up 77-73
Those were six straight Bulls points during a crucial stretch. My only complaint was that Taj once again pulled down only 4 rebounds. According to Basketball-Reference, he ranked second-to-last in Defensive Rebounding Percentage last night. Only Nazr Mohammed had a lower DR%, and Nazr played nine seconds.
Goat of the Night:
After scorching the Lakers with 9-for-11 shooting, Kirk Hinrich went 0-for-5 from the field and finished with zero points in 34 minutes. The Bulls were outscored by 10 points when he was on the floor, the worst plus-minus on the team.
Quote of the Night:
Noah on what he thought of his amazing save-pass to Belinelli for the winning layup: “I didn’t even really see it. I had the cheerleaders’ pom-poms in my face.”
Quote of the Night Runner Up:
Robinson on leading the comeback: “I just felt like I was invincible, unstoppable. It’s the Peter Pan theory — you can’t fly without happy thoughts.”