Bulls at Pistons: Production meets potential


  • Teams: Chicago Bulls (33-27) at Detroit Pistons (24-36)
  • Date: March 5, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

When the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons tip off tonight, it will be a clear battle of future versus present.

The Bulls are exactly where the Pistons hoped they would be despite the prolonged absence of Derrick Rose. There are two reasons why Chicago continues to overachieve despite losing their best player in consecutive seasons: defense and big men.

Since Tom Thibodeau became the Bulls’ head coach in 2010, the team has finished with a top-five defense in every campaign. Chicago is a physical team that challenges shooters, ball-handlers and interior players on each and every possession.

The Bulls grind out games and consistently remain within striking distance, thus affording them opportunities to win games late.

The second facet that makes Chicago so impressive is their combination of interior players, and the Pistons should most definitely pay attention.

The Bulls have a trio of big men that all complement each other in various ways that most teams in the league could only hope. On paper, the top-flight teams in the NBA have excellent interior players, but an argument could be made that with the exception of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, none of them have the synergy that occurs on a nightly basis in Chicago on both ends.

Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson consistently function (obviously, only two of them share the court together at a given time) as a solid tandem on both ends of the court at all times.

Boozer provides scoring punch via post-ups and jump shooting, but he is not a great defensive player. He lacks foot speed and can occasionally rotate late. Noah helps facilitate the offense with his passing and high-basketball IQ.

What’s more, Noah is a good deterrent at the rim and also a strong rebounder. He can switch in the pick-and-roll and defend perimeter players, a clear indication that he can blow up isolations and the screen-and-roll action of opponents.

In many ways, Noah protects Boozer defensively.

Gibson is a good finisher around the hoop and also a decent midrange shooter. On defense, he has the toughness and versatility to guard interior and perimeter players. Very rarely is he ever pushed around.

Put all three on the same team, and Thibodeau gets to pick and choose who starts and finishes games. Noah and Gibson are terrific at protecting the paint, while Boozer’s scoring and offensive might be needed if is struck in an offensive rut.

On the flip side, Detroit has three solid interior players in Greg Monroe, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond. They have not yet found the right formula with respect to playing well together, but the answer could be in Chicago.

Instead of playing all three guys together, the Pistons might be better served by only using two of them at a time and then tweak things from there. The Pistons have the potential to be a scary defensive unit by virtue of their frontcourt, but that potential is still locked away somewhere.

Detroit will not morph into a defensive juggernaut overnight, but it’s worth observing if the changes progressively occur this season going into the next one. The frontcourts tonight should make for an entertaining battle that will decide the contest.

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