It’s probably not your night if you’re down 18 and getting outrebounded as a team by one player for a majority of the game.
While that might be the case for a team that isn’t accustomed to dealing with adversity and possessing a find-ways-to-win attitude, that wasn’t the case for the Bulls as they outscored the Detroit Pistons 68-42 in the second half to win a season-high seventh straight 106-98 and overcome the biggest deficit they have faced this season.
With the Toronto Raptors losing to the New York Knicks, the Bulls claimed possession of the third seed and clinched home court for the first round with the Brooklyn Nets losing to the Atlanta Hawks.
“I thought we were real low energy at the start,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Badly outrebounded, not making transition plays, not running back on defense. That is not us. We are not a low energy team. We usually have great energy.”
But that energy wasn’t present as the Bulls allowed the Pistons to shoot 51 percent in the first half as they trailed 56-38. If that wasn’t bad in facing a team with little left to play for, Detroit’s sophomore big man Andre Drummond outrebounded the Bulls by himself in the first half 19-17.
“That’s a big boy,” said Joakim Noah.
Drummond finished the game with 26 points to go along with a game-high 26 rebounds, but the mere fact that the Bulls were able to limit him to just seven boards in the second half speaks to how they picked up the intensity in outrebounding Detroit 22-14.
The Bulls were able to cut it to single digits in the third as the Pistons wheels begin to come loose. Down 80-72 to start the fourth, the Bulls begin the quarter with a 22-6 run, holding Detroit scoreless for nearly five minutes in the process.
D.J. Augustin and Taj Gibson scored 23 of the team’s 36 points in the period as the Pistons had run out of the energy they brought to start the game.
“Our starters did a good job in the third,” Gibson said. “They kind of set the tone, came out with a lot of energy. Come the fourth quarter, we just picked it up another notch, tried to limit second chance shots, try and contest a lot of shots, but the energy was just there in the fourth.”
Augustin led the team with 24 points. Gibson added 17 as the Bulls bench outscored Detroit’s 45-18.
“Our two most efficient scorers are D.J. and Taj,” said Thibodeau.
Proving Thibodeau’s assessment of him being one of the team’s two most efficient scores (D.J. is the other), Gibson might have even cemented the Sixth Man of the Year award with his 11 points, four offensive rebounds and two blocked shots in the fourth. While it was against a team that will be on vacation in a week, Gibson’s intensity was a much needed ingredient in turning around what could have been a flat performance for the Bulls.
“When you make effort plays like that, and those were big time multiple effort plays,” Thibodeau said. “Blocked shots, offensive rebounding in the traffic, finishing that does nothing but inspire your time. That sort of ignited us.”
With all they’ve had to fight through this season, it’s only right that possession of the third seed be in their hands.
“It feels good to have the three seed,” Noah said. “It means (Sunday’s game vs. New York) is going to be popping. I like when the Garden is popping.”