The Bulls had brutal starts and finishes in a game they wound up losing 102-91 to the Pistons. It was a 32-21 point first quarter and 31-19 final quarter that did them in.
The faltering at the end was somewhat expected, as the Bulls were on a back-to-back and completing their only 4-in-5 for the season. Even with those circumstances, Hoiberg relied heavily on his starters and especially Jimmy Butler, who played nearly 43 minutes. And it is little surprise that the Pistons started a pivotal 12-0 run with Butler getting that rare rest.
Credit to him and the Bulls for making this a game, though. The Pistons came out looking great, spreading out the Bulls like crazy and making them screw up decisions defensively to produce a lot of open looks. Or in the case of the Bulls starting backcourt, decisively lazy. The Pistons were also very opportunistic in their fast breaks, something they are not typically known for as a team.
But in the second and third quarters the Bulls did what they do. What was a 17 point deficit was down to 7 at the half, and a quick 6-0 run started the 2nd half. I’m not certain the Pistons didn’t just get careless with the ball and just miss wide-open looks, because I don’t think the Bulls defense actually looked much better. But they got results, with the Pistons only scoring 39 total in the middle quarters.
Meanwhile it was Butler and Wade dominating the ball and baiting free throw attempts (32-21 edge for the game), or throwing the ball in to Gibson and Lopez. Taj had perfect 4/4 third quarter and finished with 11 points. Lopez didn’t have gaudy stats but had a very good game, especially in defending the rim and keeping Andre Drummond from totally killing them (he was merely quite good, definite improvement).
The Bulls actually took a brief lead in the second half, helped a bit by some Cristiano Felicio time. Now...Felicio was a team-worst -17 in his nearly 15 minutes, but didn’t look so bad? Also (and this is sometimes the case with Portis too, it must be said) these are minutes where Jimmy Butler is off the court, which skews everything. The Bulls just can’t seem to hold their own at all when he’s off the court.
Butler had a game-high 32, but Detroit’s Tobias Harris had a nice showing in the game with 22 of his own, a couple times right against Jimmy. For the middle quarters it looked like a game where the Bulls could steal one simply based on having the best player on the court. And at times the best two, as Wade chipped in with 19 points in what was his best game with no rest this season.
But the Pistons definitely were playing the better basketball overall. The Bulls only had 2 threes to the Pistons 8, and, again, Detroit missed several wide-open ones. But not this one.
Looks like they didn't communicate this to Taj, but cool way to deal with PNR designed to get small switched pic.twitter.com/A8ggJTS8bB— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) December 7, 2016
Despite the big minutes for Big Cris, the Bulls bench was once again outproduced, this time 33-11. Ish Smith wound up closing the game for Detroit at PG and Aaron Baynes joined him after a successful hack-a-Drummond strategy (1/4) got him subbed out but the Bulls weren’t able to close, and wound up shooting 7-21 in the final period.
No real rest for the Bulls here, as they get a single day off before hosting the San Antonio Spurs. Things look bleak, but that game is on TNT so it’s a guaranteed win.