***Editor's Note: This was written by Brian Schroeder. Follow him at @Cosmis.***
In a game that was much more entertaining than most of us thought it would be, the Bulls came into Detroit and walked away with a four point victory Friday night.
The frontcourt was the key, as both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer topped the 20 point mark for the first time this season (and only the 11th time both have scored in double figures). In fact, all five starters played about as well as could be reasonably expected in heavy minutes (35+ minutes for all five on the first night of a back-to-back, of course). The eight man rotation was back in full force, but with drastically different results than the second Milwaukee game.
But the real story tonight was the greatness of Joakim Noah. 30 points, 23 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks on 12-19 shooting. He made Greg Monroe look slow and Andre Drummond look like a child on the glass, especially offensively, as 10 of his boards gave the Bulls a second chance opportunity. His passing was on point, especially to Boozer, who had a plus game of his own, throwing down more dunks than I can ever remember seeing and shooting with confidence. Perhaps most importantly, it was Noah who kept the Bulls afloat to an extent as the Pistons took a 17 point first half lead, topping the 50 point mark with more than five minutes remaining in the second quarter.
The backcourt, long this team’s biggest area of need, continued its improved play of late. After getting torched for most of the first half by both Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey, Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli turned it around significantly in the second, combining for 29 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists on 10-18 shooting (4-9 from deep). Belinelli was especially deadly, filling the role of Rip Hamilton in more than just the starting lineup. The Bulls successfully ran him off of a series of screens to no small amount of success.
The Pistons, on the other hand, were led by the aforementioned Stuckey and Knight, who scored 24 and 21 points respectively, and Charlie Villanueva, who took advantage of some trademark Boozer defense en route to 15 points (Boozer gave as good as he got, at least).
Player o' the Game: Joakim Noah (30 points, 23 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 2 turnovers in 43 minutes)
Noah was just as good defensively as he was offensively, as he did well to seal Drummond out of the paint, limiting his effectiveness on lobs and easy baskets (Drummond still finished with 7 points and 4 rebounds on 3-3 shooting, continuing to validate his draft position with every passing game).
While I’d just like to ignore the fact that it took a herculean effort from Noah and heavy duty minutes from the starting five to beat the lowly (but improved as of late) Pistons, a win tomorrow night against the suddenly mighty Knicks might just be enough to prove to me that this team might just be figuring out how to win consistently without Rose. The schedule certainly doesn’t get any easier from here.
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