Bulls improve to 3-0 in win over Detroit, get defensive along the way

Bulls improve to 3-0 in win over Detroit, get defensive along the way

Guard Lonzo Ball had a reputation as a great defensive player before joining the Bulls, and that was on full display on Saturday, as he and his teammates locked down the visiting Pistons on a night the offense was shaky at best.

It was quite the few minutes for Lonzo Ball.

The Bulls point guard re-entered the game against the Pistons with just under five minutes left in the first half, the home team grinding out a five-point lead, and the United Center crowd anxious for something to get them out of their seats.

Ball did just that, and not just once.

There was the ridiculous block on Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart at the rim, a nifty strip of Jerami Grant, and then more relentless pushing of the ball down the floor on the offensive end.

As the Bulls walked into the locker room for halftime, the lead was 11 – despite Zach LaVine only scoring four points – and the realization of just how special Ball could be was again reiterated.

“He’s everywhere,’’ LaVine said of Ball. “Hits his open threes, pushes the transition, brings a real energy and physicality to the defensive end. All-around player, man. We’re glad to have him.’’

The Bulls should be, as they went on to dismantle Detroit 97-82, remaining unbeaten in the regular season and off to a 3-0 start for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

It again bears asking: While the Lakers moved on from Ball because of the addition of LeBron James and a changing of the landscape, what were the Pelicans thinking?

It seemed like that organization was focused more on Ball’s weaknesses than his strengths.

LaVine had a different take on it, however.

“I feel like the media is the one that makes those narratives,’’ LaVine said, when asked why Ball’s game had been picked apart so often over the last few years. “It’s not the players. The players know who the real ballers are and who the real players are. It’s always about what you can do, not what you can’t, and [Ball] effects the game in so many ways and it trumps the things he’s not good at. And he works at the things he’s not good at. One of the hardest working guys on the team. He shows out how good of a player he is.’’

And it’s contagious, especially on the defensive end.

The Bulls actually started the game in a 9-0 hole, before Nikola Vucevic scored a quick five and then Ball nailed a three. And while Detroit (0-2) played hard that first half, a lack of talent against this Bulls team eventually gets exposed.

By the end of the third quarter the Bulls were up 79-54, and it was just a matter of getting out healthy and staying on the gas.

They accomplished both, as Ball followed up his Friday triple-double with 13 points and only one assist, but led the team with four of their 11 blocks, as well as registering three of their 13 steals.

Dirty work at its best.

“I think I made the comment when [Ball] first got in the league that he’s the kind of guy you want to play with because he’s so unselfish,’’ coach Billy Donovan said after the latest win.

Meanwhile, DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 21 points, and Vucevic added 15 points and 18 rebounds. LaVine had just 14 on a 6-for-18 shooting night, but also had five rebounds.

It was the defense, however, that remained the story.

“You want to give yourself a chance to win, and I think our defense did that for us,’’ Donovan said. “I was really impressed with our defense and what they were able to do.’’

Ball with the starters, and then Alex Caruso with the reserves, have been two big reasons why, as Caruso led the team with five steals on the night.

“It’s a next-game mentality and we expect to play this way,’’ LaVine said. “We’re really competitive on both ends of the floor and it really shows.’’

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