10 observations: Bulls beat Pistons, clinch homecourt for play-in game

10 observations: Bulls beat Pistons, clinch homecourt for play-in game originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

DETROIT --- The Chicago Bulls clinched the ninth seed and homecourt advantage for next week’s play-in game against the Atlanta Hawks by downing the Detroit Pistons 127-105 on Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena.

Here are 10 observations:

---Alex Caruso is now eligible for All-Defense awards, meeting the league’s new 65-game minimum requirement. Caruso is a virtual lock to repeat as a first-team member. He entered leading the league in deflections per game, tied for second in total deflections, tied for fourth in steals and averaging a career-high 1 block. He’s the only player in the league with at least 100 steals and 70 blocks.

"It’s good," Caruso said. "I think there are a couple games this year where I was close to 20 (minutes) and I probably should’ve known the rule and stayed in a couple minutes longer. We would’ve been done earlier. But that’s the threshold they created and something I needed to meet and obviously it was in the back of my mind through the season. But for the most part it was go out there and try to help the guys win every night."

Asked if he thinks he's having an even better season this year after making first-team last year for the first time, Caruso set his standards high.

"Maybe statistically," he said. "There are times through the year where I feel like I’m not guarding to my standards and then there are nights where I feel like I’m really locked in. I’ve had a good year defensively and I feel like I’ve done my best to try to show up every night and play."

---DeMar DeRozan posted an 18-point third quarter, his second-highest scoring quarter this season, and finished with 39 points with seven assists. DeRozan sank a season-high four 3-pointers as the Bulls shot 53.1 percent overall with 28 assists. Nikola Vucevic added 27 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in a balanced offensive effort.

---The play-in game is currently scheduled for Wednesday. Coach Billy Donovan said the team remains under the assumption the game will be played then, but there’s a potential scheduling nightmare for the league. The NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers play at home next Tuesday, which is when the play-in game between the 7th and 8th seeds is scheduled. And if the Philadelphia 76ers finish seventh, where they currently are, the schedule will need to be addressed.

---Donovan recently pointed out how Javonte Green’s innate ability to cut at the right time and in the right place jazzes up an offense that can be moribund at times. Right on cue, Green cut for two dunks and a layup early as part of his 11 points. Caruso, who finished with a season-high 10 assists, found Green twice early.

---Andre Drummond missed his first game of the season with what Donovan called “a pretty decent ankle sprain.” Drummond is wearing a boot to protect his left foot and Donovan also said he’s using a motorized scooter for mobility because of weight-bearing issues and the amount of swelling he has. Drummond said injuries obviously stink but “are part of the game.” Asked about his potential availability for next week’s play-in game, Drummond said “that’s the goal.”

---Ayo Dosunmu missed his second straight game with a right quadriceps injury that Donovan called “a deep thigh contusion.” Dosunmu got kneed during Sunday’s Orlando game. Donovan said Dosunmu experiences discomfort when he contracts the muscle.

The Bulls will obviously prioritize trying to have both players healthy for the play-in if possible as opposed to rushing them back for regular-season action. But there’s no guarantee for that either.

“I don’t love the fact for them that they’re missing time with the limited number of games left,” Donovan said. “And then you talk about after Sunday’s game, you don’t know what their availability will be. You talk about going through several missed games and then going through their availability to play in the play-in. That’s always different for guys, coming back and not having any games to get under their belt.

“I don’t really worry about Ayo’s conditioning or even Andre’s. I’m hopeful that it’s not going to be longer than the remainder of the season, but I just don’t know.”

---With Drummond out, Adama Sanogo drew first-quarter minutes and scored on a putback shortly after entering. He finished with four points and six rebounds in 11 minutes. Donovan said his usage moving forward will be “situational.”

---The Pistons, who played without Cade Cunningham, lost their sixth straight. They have just 13 victories all season but, obviously, two of those came against the Bulls. The Bulls evened the season series with the victory.

---The Bulls scored a season-high 36 points off 20 Pistons turnovers.

---The Bulls set a single-season franchise record with their 907th 3-pointer, per Bulls PR. But for perspective, they entered tied for 26th with just 11.5 makes per game and their total makes rank 28th. For more perspective, the NBA-leading Boston Celtics have made 1,305 3-pointers. This is a significant gap for a franchise that said during the preseason that it wanted to change its shot profile. Losing the 3-point volume from injured players Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams and Torrey Craig---who has since returned---certainly hurts as well.

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