A single victory in December doesn't deserve a celebration, but this performance certainly gave the Chicago Bulls plenty of relief.
After 3 bad losses in a row, the Bulls dominated the Detroit Pistons from start to finish, winning 113-82 on Monday night at the United Center.
"We needed this in the worst way," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "I think last week was embarrassing for everybody. Guys played for each other. I thought we played as complete a game as we have all season."
Most of the Bulls' problem spots were miraculously cured. They shot 50 percent from 3-point range (8-for-16) for the first time all season, and their 41 points off the bench was their best performance since Nov. 7 against Orlando.
The Bulls set a season high for field-goal percentage at .598. In fact, it was just the second time in franchise history when they finished a regular-season game shooting at least 55 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range and 100 percent from the foul line.
Nikola Mirotic, after getting benched for two games, was the brightest example of renewed confidence. He went 5-for-10 from the field for 13 points, including 3 baskets from 3-point range.
"It's been hard times for me last week," Mirotic said. "It was something I was not used to, but I did what I'm supposed to, keep practicing hard, spending extra hours (in the gym). Tell the guys, 'When they call my name I'm going to be ready.' That's what I did. I had great confidence from my teammates, They basically all came to me and said, 'Niko, we're going to find you.' "
The Bulls shot 81 percent in the first quarter, hitting 17 of 21 shots. According to ESPN, that's the best first-quarter field-goal percentage in the last three seasons in the NBA.
The halftime lead was 69-34. Not only did that equal their point total for the entire game against Milwaukee on Friday, it was the largest halftime lead in the NBA this season and second largest in Bulls history. The franchise record is 39 points, 73-34 at Charlotte on April 5, 1996.
The lead peaked at 84-46 midway through the third quarter. With no reason to play the starters in the fourth quarter, Rajon Rondo fell short of a triple-double, finishing with 10 points, 14 assists and 8 rebounds. Jimmy Butler led the team with 19 points.
The Bulls (14-13) tied their season high with 34 assists and had 24 by halftime.
"That ball was moving so rapidly," Butler said. "When it's happening, everybody's getting rhythm shots, everybody's confident."
The Bulls were hoping a long film session and practice Sunday could turn things around.
"It's a better matchup," Dwyane Wade said. "Milwaukee is a tough matchup for us. It is what it is. It's a bad matchup. Especially playing two nights in a row, you don't want to be running up and down with them."
The Pistons (14-16) also have been struggling lately. They held a long players-only meeting after Saturday's home loss to Indiana. Shot distribution was mentioned as a hot-button topic, specifically since point guard Reggie Jackson returned from an injury. Jackson went 2-for-5 from the field in Monday's game.
"This was a disappointing performance," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Unprofessional, humiliating and whatever else."
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