Bulls' Defensive Activity Continues to Impress in Rout of Pistons

10 observations: Bulls’ defense impresses in rout of Pistons originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago Bulls authored another one-sided victory at the United Center on Saturday, defeating the Detroit Pistons 97-82 one night after downing the New Orleans Pelicans 128-112.

Here are 10 observations:

1. In the game’s first 1 minute, 55 seconds, the Pistons sprinted out to a 9-0 lead behind two bruising post-up buckets by Isaiah Stewart on Nikola Vučević, a Frank Jackson 3-pointer and a Saddiq Bey floater. 

The Bulls righted the ship, though, quickly cutting that deficit to 9-8, then leading 31-28 after 12 minutes and 54-43 at halftime before extending their lead above 20 in the third quarter. Save for a mild fourth-quarter blip in which Detroit pulled back to within 13, it was over from there.

2. Vučević entered play averaging 12.5 points and shooting 34.4 percent through two games. Early on, it appeared as if the Bulls were looking to get him going. In Vučević's first nine-minute stint, his teammates looked for him frequently in the post and screen-and-roll, and he finished the first with 9 points, 5 rebounds and seven shot attempts, making four of them, including a 3-pointer.

Vučević’s shooting skewed back for the remainder of the game; he finished 6-for-16 and 1-for-4 from behind the arc. But with 15 points and 18 rebounds he logged his second double-double of the young season, and notched 3 blocks and 2 steals to boot.

3. Billy Donovan extended his rotation to 10 men in the minutes that mattered, trotting out Ayo Dosunmu for minutes in the second, third and fourth quarters, to the delight of the United Center crowd.

In his second-quarter stint, Dosunmu jumped a passing lane for a steal and dished a nifty fastbreak assist to a cutting LaVine. A few possessions later, he swatted a layup attempt, then forced a shot-clock violation with a poke-away. Then, in the third, he dropped another slick dime and finished a layup through hard contact. He’s making his case for a consistent role.

4. In between Dosunmu’s aforementioned block and poke-away, Lonzo Ball submitted a compelling bid for the Bulls’ play of the year in an early-season slate already packed with highlights:

That’s the Bulls’ point guard notching a standing-jump block on Stewart, the Pistons’ 6-foot-8 center. Ball’s defensive impact continued to permeate in this contest; he matched a career-high with 4 blocks, notched 3 steals and tipped myriad deflections throughout.

5. The undersized nature of this Bulls team isn’t going anywhere, as exhibited by the Pistons’ 54 paint points (24 in the first quarter) and 63-49 advantage on the glass (11-3 offensive).

6. But Chicago’s havoc-wreaking defensive identity has proven to be a recipe for success. 

Against Detroit, the Bulls blocked 9 shots, swiped 6 steals and forced 14 turnovers in the first half alone. By game’s end, they had 13 steals, 11 blocks and had scored 24 points off of 23 forced turnovers. 

Ball and Caruso (5 steals, 1 block) were at the center of the chaos. Between them, Green, Patrick Williams, Troy Brown Jr. — and heck, throw LaVine in there at this point — the Bulls have a ton of length and athleticism to throw at opponents on the perimeter, with deflections and fastbreak run-outs the goal.

7. Donovan got additional looks at Patrick Williams playing center after briefly experimenting with that configuration in the preseason. Matching Williams with Kelly Olynyk was more palatable than Steven Adams, evidently.

In the second-quarter minutes, the Bulls were neutral, and in an extended second-half stretch spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth, they were plus-two. Williams got some opportunities to function as the screener in pick-and-roll while at center, potentially an area in which the Bulls can look to him offensively with so many capable playmakers. He got a midrange jumper over Olynyk on the roll in the second quarter, and to cap the third, he drilled a pick-and-pop 3-pointer at the buzzer off a feed from DeRozan.

Williams’ 9 points and seven shot attempts were both early-season highs. He also pulled down 4 rebounds

8. LaVine missed his first five shots and entered the halftime break with four points on 2-for-10 shooting. He got going a bit with two triples in the third, but finished with his lowest scoring output of the season: 14 points on 6-for-18 shooting.

What a time to have another premier wing scorer in DeRozan to pick up the slack. Efficient offense seems tough to come by against this scrappy Pistons team, but DeRozan notched 21 points, 6 assists, nine free-throw attempts and was a game-high plus-19. He also submitted this jarring poster dunk:

As a team, the Bulls placed six scorers in double-figured. Though the offense failed to reach 100 points for the second time in three games, the attack was reasonably balanced.

9. In addition to all they do as defensive disruptors, the Bulls getting 22 combined points from Caruso (12) and Green (10) was a big bonus, especially considering each made two of two 3-point tries. As a team, the Bulls shot a solid 11-for-26 (42.3 percent) from deep despite shooting less than 42 percent overall.

10. The Bulls have now won nine consecutive games over the Pistons, and, for the first time since 2016-17, have started a season 3-0.

Next up: At the Toronto Raptors on Monday.

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