Sometimes, games that do not seem important at first glance end up taking on a lot of meaning.
Such was the case with the Chicago Bulls‘ game against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, and like most important regular season games the past few seasons, the Bulls came in ready to play, disposing of the Pistons 105-94.
Joakim Noah struggled at the start of the game, but ended up with his third triple double of the season. Jimmy Butler continued to show signs of progress offensively, finishing with 18 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
Perhaps the difference in the game was D.J. Augustin and Taj Gibson combining for 48 points on 18-of-30 shooting off the bench; the Pistons’ bench only combined for 12 points and shot 5-for-20. Augustin has seemed to rebound after a shaky stretch and Gibson continued his bid for 6th man of the year.
Detroit has struggled defensively all year, and Chicago took advantage. It was a crucial game for the Bulls because of the incredibly difficult schedule coming up for the team. After a game against the surging Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, seven of the next 10 games for Chicago come against teams that are currently in the Top 5 in their conference (Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers twice and Portland Trail Blazers).
The Bulls are currently 12-16 against teams .500 or better. This stretch of schedule will help determine whether Chicago really improved as much as its record in the new year indicates.
The good news for the Bulls is that the schedule eases up down the stretch. Only 3 of Chicago’s final 10 games are against playoff teams, and all are winnable games (Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats). So, if Chicago can just go 6-5 or better over the next 11, it will be in prime position down the home stretch.
The schedule is brutal, but the Bulls have proven up to the challenge all year. Chicago should be able to rise to another challenge, and defeating the Pistons was a good start.
Donnie Kolakowski is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @zenoknows