The Chicago Bulls seek their first 3-0 start since 2016-17 on Saturday when they host the Detroit Pistons on the second leg of a back-to-back set.
The Bulls cruised to a 128-112 rout of the visiting New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. Chicago’s perimeter trio led the way with Zach LaVine scoring 32 points, DeMar DeRozan adding 26 points and Lonzo Ball recording a triple-double of 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists while facing his former team.
“We as an organization have always liked him as a player,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of Ball.
The 23-year-old point guard was acquired in a sign-and-trade with New Orleans, joining DeRozan as one of Chicago’s marquee additions in the offseason.
The Bulls added the two-time All-NBA selection DeRozan from the San Antonio Spurs in a sign-and-trade deal. With the duo joining LaVine in the backcourt, Chicago hopes to push for its first playoff appearance in five years.
Friday marked the debut of the new-look lineup in front of a United Center crowd, as Chicago welcomed back a capacity audience for the first time since March 10, 2020.
“It was a great environment,” said Donovan, who coached his first season with the Bulls playing with no fans or limited crowds due to COVID-19. “If we can play well, you end up making it a very exciting building to play in.”
Chicago opened the season on Wednesday with a 94-88 win over the Pistons in Detroit. LaVine scored 34 points that night, and teammate Nikola Vucevic recorded 15 points and 15 rebounds.
“You’ve got to make sure he works to catch it, and he’s got to feel bodies on him to get open to make a play,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said, according to the Detroit News, of defending LaVine. “Physicality without fouling is huge.”
LaVine was able to get to the foul line frequently against Detroit on Wednesday, going 11 of 11. He drew fewer free-throw opportunities on Friday, shooting 4 of 5 at the charity stripe, but he hurt the Pelicans from long range, hitting 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
The Pistons played Wednesday without No. 1 overall draft pick Cade Cunningham, who was sidelined due to an ankle sprain. Casey told reporters on Friday that the rookie wing will not travel for the three-game road swing that begins Saturday in Chicago.
Saddiq Bey, the Pistons’ All-Rookie first-team honoree a season ago, opened his sophomore campaign with 13 points and team-highs of nine rebounds and four assists. Isaiah Stewart, a second-team All-Rookie selection last season, had 12 points and eight rebounds on Wednesday.
“He makes up for any mistakes he might make with how hard he plays,” teammate Trey Lyles said of Stewart. “He has a very high ceiling offensively and defensively. He’s very quick to the ball, quick reactions. He’s a great rebounder and he knows his role. I think he can become a very good player.”
Detroit forward Jerami Grant scored 24 points in the opener, showing no rust after missing 15 of the final 21 games in the 2020-21 season.