DETROIT – On the second night of a back-to-back, where a bench player scored a career-high and the team’s best player had a decent but not incredible night, would end up being the one that would finally be victorious for the Bulls in 2020.
Nothing quite ever plays out as the team may hope this season, but at least in this calendar year, Jim Boylen’s team is in the win column.
A 108-99 triumph over the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena got that task finished after the team lost their first five games of the new year and six overall. It featured a great first quarter led by players like Luke Kornet and Daniel Gafford before a sizable lead shrunk late as the hosts made their run.
But with Zach LaVine leading the way again, the Bulls shut the door when the Pistons got close, earning the team’s first win since December 28th to improve to 14-26 on the season.
While an 11-day wait might seem like a while for the team to get their first calendar win of 2020, it’s actually less than they had to wait in 2019. Last season, the Bulls lost their first nine games after the calendar flipped, failing to win a game until January 21st, and the year before they lost four of their first five games.
After a night in which he scored 43 points, LaVine had a 25-point effort on 8-of-21 shooting from the floor as he got some help from those around him. Kornet was the most surprising as he scored 12 of his season-high 15 points in the first quarter to help the Bulls to a 15-point lead after 20 minutes.
The forward’s previous high for the season was nine points, and his 25 minutes were also the most of his season by six.
Gafford, who is the primary fill-in for Wendell Carter Jr. as he sits with an ankle injury, came back from a two-point, two-rebound effort against the Pacers Friday with 14 points and seven rebounds. In the third quarter, Gafford’s hoop and reaction led to Pistons center Andrew Drummond tossing the ball back at him, which led to his ejection.
The Bulls maintained the ten-point lead after three put watched the Pistons trim it to two with 6:47 left, yet this time there would be no collapse. Five quick points from Lauri Markkanen (14 points) helped the Bulls extend the lead and they wouldn’t let it get closer the rest of the way as they swept the Pistons in a four-game season series for the first time since the 2011-2012 season.
So at least the Bulls got on the board in 2020 faster than they did in 2019, though it might not make fans feel much better as the team still has plenty to make up as this year continues.