Bulls finish off Pistons to close out regular season
|Sunday, April 9, 2023, 4:00 PM- -|
CHICAGO - Next up, the play in tournament as the Chicago Bulls (40-42) are gearing up for what they hope to be the first of at least six playoff games this season. Before they could get to that point, they had some business to take care of as they welcomed the Detroit Pistons (17-65) to the United Center for the final game of the 2022-23 regular season.
After resting some of their starters on Friday and still finding a way to beat the Mavericks, the Bulls wanted to ensure they got as many reps as possible heading into next week. Although the Pistons entered the game with the worst record in the Eastern Conference, you have to give them some credit for how they played the first three quarters.
Not only were they sound defensively and allowed only 67 points through three quarters, but they were within three points and had the Bulls slightly frustrated. Then came the fourth quarter, where the Bulls not only woke up offensively, but continued to play the sound defense that had turned their season around. Chicago outscored the Pistons 36-17 over the final 12 minutes and took a close game, and turned it into a 103-81 blowout win.
Having their starters back in the mix was great, even if none had their typical game. Zach Lavine led the way for Chicago, although he struggled from the field, going 6-15. He played 24 minutes and finished with 17 points as he will look to head into the postseason healthy.
Joining him was Demar DeRozan, who had a much-needed night off on Friday and was back on the floor to fine-tune his game heading into the playoffs. DeRozan shot the ball better than Lavine, but he was still under 50% and came away with 16 points in the win. Those were the only two starters to hit double figures as Nikola Vucevic finished his game with eight points and seven boards, while Alex Caruso and Patrick Beverley had two points.
Knowing that their starters were going to play, but only play a limited amount of minutes, it would be up to the Bulls bench to shoulder the load. Not only did they do that, but nearly every player on the bench saw time on the floor, with Javonte Green as the only one sitting out.
Leading the way off the bench for Chicago was Carlik Jones, who finished the day with 11 points. Jones was the G-League MVP this season, so this was the type of game the Bulls knew he was capable of having. You also had the rookie Dalen Terry come away with 10 points after he put up some strong numbers in the G-League.
Terry has also shown a lot of improvement as a player in the final two months, and he should be a colossal piece going forward. Ayo Dosunmu added nine points, with Andre Drummond coming away with eight points and 10 rebounds as the Bulls got to the 40-win mark when that never seemed possible earlier this season.
Despite the Pistons struggles this season, they have a ton of young talent to build around, which bodes well for the future. Cade Cunningham is one of those guys, but he hasn't suited up for a while, which has hurt the Pistons. Detroit also has Killian Hayes as another young star, and he had a massive game to end his season. Hayes led all scorers with 26 points and flirted with a triple-double, adding eight rebounds and seven assists.
Another emerging young talent for Detroit is Jaden Ivey, who came away with 16 points despite a 35% shooting night. These two will play a vital role in the Pistons future, along with Cunningham. Two other pieces that the Pistons have to build around are Marvin Bagley III and James Wiseman.
Wiseman is the big name here as the former No. 2 pick has had his share of injury issues in the league. When healthy, he has shown the type of player he can be, as he finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds. The same can be said about Bagley, who dealt with injury issues in Sacramento and couldn't find consistency when he played.
Now in Detroit, Bagley is starting to show what he can do as he added 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench to boost the Pistons and show the fans what the future could hold in the Motor City. With the win, the Bulls are back in the postseason, which Billy Donovan deserves credit for.
Sure, having a losing record is never good, but this team was seven games above .500 in their final 28 games after hitting their low point of nine games under. Donovan joins elite company in Chicago as Tom Thibedeau, Phil Jackson, and Donovan are the only three coaches in franchise history to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The Bulls will look to keep their season alive on Wednesday when they face Toronto in the No.9 vs. No. 10 play-in game. The winner stays alive, and the loser goes home.