DETROIT – When the Bulls have lost this year, they’ve not made it easy on Billy Donovan or their fans.
They’ve had some games lost at the buzzer, some from heroics from their opponents or missed opportunities of their own. A few times, big late leads haven’t been able to hold up, leaving the Bulls to sulk in defeats that could have been wins.
The latter would apply to the last two games in which Donovan’s team played that ended with his team on the losing end. A double-digit lead at home against the Spurs evaporated after they got outscored 39-19 by the visitors in the final 12 minutes on Wednesday.
On Friday, a lead of 14 with eight minutes to go then a six-point advantage in the final seconds of the game in Denver weren’t enough to secure a victory. The Nuggets, one of the better teams in the Western Conference, forced overtime and stole a victory.
That wouldn’t be the case when the Bulls would face a Pistons team that has struggled all season long but had come into Sunday’s match-up with two-straight wins. This time, the advantage would stand up for all 48 minutes.
The Bulls ten-point lead after three quarters would grow to 20 late in the fourth quarter and they’d finish the job this time in a 100-86 victory that stops a two-game losing streak.
Unlike the previous games, the Bulls had no issue keeping Detroit at an arm’s length in the final 12 minutes. The Pistons were only able to get within nine in the fourth quarter before the visitors blew the game open, leading by 20 at two times during the second half.
The last came on a layup by Tomas Satoransky with 2:29 to go, putting away any doubt that a late collapse could happen for a third time.
Donovan’s group had a balanced scoring effort across the board, with Zach LaVine getting a team-high 18 points with Lauri Markkanen chipping in 16 and Patrick Williams ten. Two players, Ryan Arcidiacono and Denzel Valentine, had nine points while three others (Daniel Gafford, Thaddeus Young, and Satoransky) finished with eight.
Satoransky led the team with nine assists while Gafford had 11 rebounds and +10 rating in one of his best performances of the season. But the most important thing is all these efforts were still happening late in the fourth quarter, where a big lead finally stood up for the Bulls.