Bulls start fast, but squander big lead in loss to Pistons
Granted, this was a relatively new experience for the Bulls this season, dominating a good team.
They got off to a great start on Saturday against the Detroit Pistons. The Bulls hit 12 of 16 shots in the first quarter, piled up 66 points in the first half and led by as many as 21 points.
But while the Bulls are hoping to build a little momentum for the rebuild in the last few weeks of the season, Detroit is literally fighting for a playoff spot.
So center Andre Drummond never left the court, Blake Griffin took over and the Pistons roared back to post a 112-104 victory at the United Center. The Bulls managed just 38 points in the second half and were outscored 43-24 in the fourth.
"They're playoff team, they came out and bullied us," Zach LaVine said. "We didn't respond very well."
Griffin scored 16 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter. Drummond (20 points, 24 rebounds) played the entire second half and 43 minutes overall.
"I'm hoping this is a learning moment," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. "We played about as well in that first half, I think, as you can play. Came out in the third quarter, I thought our energy was poor."
The start of the fourth quarter was telling. The Bulls lead was still 11 points and feeling some desperation, Detroit kept Griffin and Drummond on the floor. The Bulls used a lineup of reserves, which meant 6-foot-5 Wayne Selden Jr. was the power forward and Cristiano Felicio was left to battle Griffin and Drummond for rebounds.
The Pistons then started the fourth by knocking down 4 straight 3-pointers and took the lead for good on Luke Kennard's 3 with 7:53 remaining. The Bulls were on the wrong end of a 29-8 run to start the fourth.
The starters tried to right the ship and got within 5 points a few times, but Griffin always had an answer. He hit 3 shots from 3-point range in the game, scored on a variety of spinning drives to the basket and in a key moment, rebounded his own 3-point miss for a layup and 3-point play.
"We were searching for five fighters, scratchers, whatever we could do to get the defensive identity up first," Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. "This is too special a time for our franchise. We haven't been there (playoffs) in a while, so lay it on the line. We can rest this summer."
This game was a good display of Griffin's new skills. He relied mostly on strength and crazy athleticism during his days with the Los Angeles Clippers.
"He's a dominant guy. He's matured. He so much more poised now and smarter and patient," Boylen said. "He grabs the ball and kind of looks at what he's got. I thought his maturity to have kind of a poor game early and then work his way out of it and work through it is a good example for our guys. It's a 48-minute game and you've got to keep playing."
LaVine led the Bulls with 24 points, while Otto Porter Jr. scored 23 and Lauri Markkanen added 18. These teams will play again Sunday afternoon in Detroit.
"I thought we were past that," LaVine said. "I guess we've still got to go back and look ourselves in the mirror and say, 'What have I got to do better?' All of us."