Game Notes: Pistons at Bulls
Detroit gets tricked and Chicago fans get treated to a thriller.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
You often hear the term “tale of two halves” when describing a basketball game. Last night in the Chicago Bulls home opener against the Detroit Pistons at the United Center, it was a tale of the fourth quarter.
For three quarters the Pistons were dominating the Bulls in just about every aspect of the game, but in the fourth quarter, like the Oklahoma City Thunder did to them in their season opener, the Bulls locked up on defense and stole what should’ve been an easy road victory for the Pistons.
Opening night in Chicago is always fun and the fact that the game was played on the eve of Halloween made it even moreso as many fans came to the arena wearing very creative costumes (there were three Teletubbies and a pink gorilla sitting courtside near the Pistons bench, and some guy in the arena came to the game dressed as a Hooters girl). But after the opening tip, the excitement for the new season quickly waned and the masks that some people wore appeared to be used to hide the shame of being witness to such a lopsided game.
What started out as a close contest after the first quarter, quickly turned into a blowout by the second.
Leading the Detroit charge was former Chicago Bull Ben Gordon who was booed loudly by the United Center fans as soon as he entered the game. Even though he plays for Detroit – Chicago’s mortal enemy – he was still a very good player and did some pretty impressive things during his time in Chicago. You would think the fans would be more appreciative of that fact but alas, they were not.
And in response to the obvious lack appreciation, Ben Gordon proceeded to go off.
Mid-range pull up jumpers, hard drives to the basket, and a lot of trips to the line got Gordon going early. Before you knew it, he had 21 points in the game on perfect shooting (5-5 from the field and 10-10 from the free throw line) and he looked as if he was on a mission to beat Chicago all by himself. With the help of Gordon and the strong play of Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince, what was a 24-21 game in favor of Detroit, quickly turned into a 19 point deficit for Chicago who went into halftime trailing 63-44.
But going into the third quarter, the Bulls quickly made adjustments.
First, to slow down Gordon they put a taller player in Luol Deng on him which proved to be a very wise decision. Deng’s length made it difficult for Gordon to get his shot off and the Bulls trapped him virtually every time he touched the ball. The strategy proved sound as Gordon would not register another point, going 0-5 in the second half. The Bulls also began to show signs of life on the defensive end but by the end of the period they were still down 15 points thanks to a 3-point buzzer beater by Charlie Villanueva.
But in the fourth quarter, it was a supreme effort on the defensive end by Chicago as they held Detroit to only 9 points while scoring 34 points of their own thanks to the offensive brilliance of Derrick Rose who proved once again that when he gets going, he’s pretty hard to stop. Said Ben Gordon on the play of Rose, “Derrick was really hot, and it seemed like he could do whatever he wanted.”
And he did.
He burned the Pistons for 39 points in the game – tying his career high – while also dishing 7 assists and grabbing 6 rebounds. During his many trips to the free throw line to help Chicago secure the improbable come from behind victory, the United Center fan contingent chanted “MVP!” in appreciation.
Rose, ever humble, yet still supremely confident in his abilities, downplayed the MVP chants. “I’m far away from it. I’ve still got to play hard. But like I said, I’ve been working out all this summer and I think I can have a shot.”
Though the League MVP award is still far of, Rose showed why he’s the most valuable player on the Bulls as he led his guys with a confidence that never seemed to waver, even when they were down. “There was no doubt in my mind that we weren’t going to lose this game,” said Rose as he was simultaneously being congratulated by Scottie Pippen in the locker room while rushing to take care of his postgame media responsibilities so that he could get to the Young Jeezy concert.
“I told everybody at halftime, ‘We got ‘em’ even though we were down 20 points. I thought that we were better than [Detroit] and they just caught us slipping but we came back and got the victory. But we don’t want to start off [a game] like this. I was telling my teammates right when things were going bad that there was no way that we can start off like this again and we’ve got to learn from it. But we just played hard and fought our way through.”
After the game, Rose presented Tom Thibodeau with the game ball to commemorate his first victory as an NBA Head Coach.
“Derrick was phenomenal. There wasn’t anything that he wasn’t doing,” said Thibodeau. “That’s who he is. I think he’s gotten to the point now where he can kind of figure out the game and whatever’s needed for us to win, he’s going to try to provide. When he’s attacking, he’s almost impossible to stop… Right now, we need more scoring from him, so that’s what he’s providing, but we also want him to make the correct plays.”
Aside from a phenomenal individual performance by Rose, it was another solid game from Joakim Noah as well who put up 15 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. But the most unlikely story of the night was the play of James Johnson (8 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks) who was a key contributor in the Bulls victory. He was all over the place and his chase-down block on a Rodney Stuckey shot at the basket and a tip-dunk off of a Derrick Rose missed layup attempt – both at key moments late in the game – all but sealed the victory for Chicago.
Next up for the Bulls is the Portland Trailblazers at the United Center on Monday night.