The Bulls could hardly buy a basket in the first quarter: They missed their first eight shots, scored 22 points and shot 33% from the field. The Pistons’ length and athleticism clearly were disrupting the offense.
But something changed in the second quarter Sunday. The Bulls went on a 22-4 run over a 7:18 stretch to wrest control in their 119-108 victory. They forced the youthful Pistons into mistakes (16 turnovers for the game) and capitalized off them (25 points off the turnovers). The Bulls outscored Detroit 33-19 in the second quarter.
The catalyst for that second-quarter run was third-year guard Ayo Dosunmu, who had three steals in the first half and was a plus-19 overall in 26 minutes.
“First thing I told him coming out was, ‘That quarter was because of you,’ ” forward DeMar DeRozan said. “The energy he brought, getting out in transition, the layups and getting those steals. I let him know that without him, that quarter would not have happened.”
Creating easy points in transition is essential for a team that is 22nd in the NBA in halfcourt efficiency, according to the Cleaning the Glass website.
The Bulls entered the game second in the NBA in points off turnovers while also turning the ball over the least. Taking care of the ball and forcing the Pistons into turnovers — particularly live-ball turnovers that turn into fast breaks — are necessary because the Bulls routinely get outscored from the three-point line and outrebounded.
“That’s pretty much what I try to do, just play my game when I get out there,” Dosunmu said. “Push the pace, bump up the energy and the joy.”
It was arguably Dosunmu’s best game of the season. He had 13 points and three assists. Dosunmu also played a vital role in holding Pistons guard Cade Cunningham to 4-for-15 shooting from the field, including 0-for-5 from three-point range.
“I closed with [Dosunmu] today,” coach Billy Donovan said. “You could have closed with Torrey [Craig]; you could have closed with Patrick [Williams]. I just elected to go with him because I thought he was playing really well on both ends of the floor. He was playing well defensively, in particular guarding Cunningham.’’
DeRozan — who had an efficient 29 points on 11-for-19 shooting — was the leading scorer in a balanced attack. Big man Nikola Vucevic, who had 20 points, came up huge in the fourth quarter with two three-pointers, and Zach LaVine, despite a cold night from three-point range (1-for-6), still chipped in 19 points.
Point guard Coby White attacked the basket and had 16 points and a team-high seven assists.
But the second unit provided the spark the Bulls needed. Donovan said he prefers to play 10 guys in his rotation, but finding minutes for everybody is difficult. Dosunmu has to stay prepared throughout the season, wondering when his role might expand. He has taken advantage of his role off the bench, however.
“I have a unique way of viewing the game because I can see what the game needs,” Dosunmu said. ‘‘That’s something that I have taken away from coming off the bench, being able to read the game and understanding what needs to be done and what’s lacking.”
With a game Monday in Milwaukee, Donovan said guard Alex Caruso’s injury is more of a day-to-day thing. Despite the uncertainty, Dosunmu tries to keep his same routine and approach. He tries to contribute what he can.
“We have a pretty deep team,” Dosunmu said. “The better I get, the more I can just push the team, and I think it’s going to make us an even better team down the line when the season continues to grow.”