LaVine leads Bulls to big comeback against Pistons
Whatever happened to the Bulls at halftime of Wednesday's game against Detroit -- changing strategy, sending a message -- it worked.
The Bulls pulled off the largest comeback in the NBA this season, rallying for a 105-102 victory in a rescheduled game against the Detroit Pistons at the United Center, behind 37 points from Zach LaVine.
The Bulls trailed by 25 points late in the second quarter. They already had a 20-point comeback in Portland earlier this season.
Coach Billy Donovan opened the third quarter with a lineup of LaVine, Thad Young, Garrett Temple, Denzel Valentine and Tomas Satoransky. The team's youngest players -- Wendell Carter Jr., Coby White and Patrick Williams -- stayed on the bench.
"I was disappointed in our team, to be honest with you. I mean, really disappointed," Donovan said. "I think if you look at the last two weeks of our team where we've played well one night, no consistency the next night. Play well the next night, no consistency the next night. And it's hard to be good when you do that."
With the Bulls trailing 61-43 at the half, it seemed like this was a spread-the-floor type of lineup, designed to open the court for LaVine to operate, and that part worked. LaVine scored 15 points in the quarter.
But the defense picked up too. Detroit shot just 4 of 19 from the field in the third quarter, 0-for-9 from 3-point range, and the Bulls outscored the Pistons 27-12 in the quarter.
"I thought they were blitzing Zach, they were trapping him and they were trying to get the ball out of his hands," Donovan said. "I just felt like we needed to have shooting on the floor. I felt like if we could spread the floor and Wendell or Thad could find guys, we needed to put shooting around them.
"Then the other part was I hope those guys sitting over there appreciate the minutes that they get and the opportunity to play. Other guys stepped up. But it's not like I don't have confidence in those guys, it was just a matter of we didn't compete at the level we needed to. I thought the right thing to do from the bench was to help Zach put some shooting around him."
The young guys did come back and made big contributions. White and Williams delivered back-to-back corner 3-pointers with to put the Bulls up 103-98 with 28.8 seconds left, while Carter finished with 18 points.
White, who finished with 8 points and hit 3 of 10 shots, said he took the benching in stride.
"Coach called out who was starting in the second half and life moved on," White said. "We were down by 20 and something had to change. We came back and won the game, so there's nothing much to speak on. I've got to grow up a little bit. Play on both sides of the court. Accept the challenge and help my team win."
Detroit forward Jerami Grant was a man on a mission. Signed as a free agent from Denver before the season, Grant said he wanted to be a featured scorer, not a role player, and he poured in a career-high 43 points on Wednesday.
Grant has plenty of Chicago connections. His uncle Horace played on the Bulls' first three championship teams and brother Jerian had a brief, undistinguished career as a Bulls guard a few years back.
Donovan said LaVine asked to guard Grant in the second half.
"When Jerami Grant started to get going, he came over to me and said, 'Can I take him?' I said go ahead, have at it," Donovan said. "He did a really good job. He wanted that assignment and I love when players come to me and say, I want that.
"He didn't get a lot of help. He was on his own. I thought if we started trapping him, the ball could get spread around and they could hit some 3s."
The Bulls took the lead with 10 minutes left and held it the rest of the way. Detroit's Delon Wright missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.