Strong Defense Powers Pistons to 95-69 Game One Win Over BullsDetroit jumped on Chicago early and then blew the game open with three straight three pointers in the fourth quarter, cruising to a 95-69 victory in game one of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Pick a statistical category and Detroit controlled it, from rebounds (46-38) to field goal percentage (.439 to .329) to turnovers (committing 15, forcing 21). Chauncey Billups set the tone in the first quarter, torching Ben Gordon for 12 points as Detroit took a 29-23 lead. Billups and Richard Hamilton each finished with 20 points. Luol Deng led Chicago with 18 points and eight rebounds. Ben Wallace had nine points on 4-5 shooting and tied Deng with eight rebounds and Kirk Hinrich scored 15 points on 6-7 shooting and dished out six assists but the Bulls could not overcome horrendous 3-30 shooting from their bench players (no, that is not a typo).
Chicago battled uphill for most of the first half, falling behind by as many as 16 points, but the Bulls were only down 10 at halftime. They got to within 60-52 in the first two minutes of the third quarter but then P.J. Brown picked up his third and fourth fouls and had to go to the bench. His replacement, rookie Tyrus Thomas, seemed more than a little out of his depth. Rasheed Wallace immediately scored on him in the post and Detroit pulled away to a 70-57 lead by the end of the third quarter.
Any thought that the Bulls might make a fourth quarter run was quickly ended when Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince each made a three pointer within a 1:21 stretch. That made the score 79-57 and turned the rest of the game into, as Marv Albert likes to say, "extensive garbage time."
Years ago, Danny Ainge noted that after you win a playoff game by blowing someone out you don't get to start the next game with a 20 point lead. Last year, Detroit cruised to two easy home wins against Cleveland and then fell down 3-2 before eventually prevailing in the seventh game. In game one of the 1985 NBA Finals, Boston beat the L.A. Lakers 148-114. The Lakers won the next game and won the series in six games. So, Detroit's margin of victory in game one is irrelevant; the important issue is whether or not Chicago can correct the mistakes that led to the loss. The Bulls stayed in contact for three quarters before Detroit's barrage of three pointers. Prior to that, a couple things stood out: (1) The Bulls looked jittery and a lot of their turnovers were, in tennis terms, unforced errors. Yes, Detroit played good defense but the Bulls were fumbling the ball in the open court and throwing wild, low percentage passes; (2) the Bulls were able to get into the paint almost at will, mostly by dribble penetration, but they missed a lot of layups or turned the ball over. Just by controlling the ball better and converting opportunities in the paint the Bulls could have made the score a lot closer. Starting in game two, look for the Bulls to be much more effective in exploiting scoring opportunities in the paint; if Detroit reacts to take that away, then look for the Bulls to start making open jump shots, like they did versus Miami. The Pistons seemed really determined to take away the jump shot from Chicago, even at the cost of leaving open driving lanes.
The bigger concern for the Bulls is how to deal with Billups and Hamilton. Neither player really hurt the Bulls during the regular season but both caused problems in game one and they could have scored more than 20 points apiece if Detroit had needed them to do so. The Bulls may have to change around some of their defensive schemes to make sure that Billups cannot just abuse Gordon one on one. On the other hand, if the Bulls clean up their ballhandling and avoid another 3-30 shooting effort from their bench then they probably can live with the defensive performance that they had; after all, Detroit shot just .439 for the game.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:00 AM