Bulls can't do much right now to fix depleted bench

 
 
Updated 3/9/2019 7:12 PM
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  • Bulls guard/forward Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot, left, and Detroit Pistons forward Thon Maker fight for a ball during Friday's loss to the Pistions. Feeling some desperation to reach the playoffs this season, the Detroit Pistons picked on the Bulls' reserves at the start of the fourth quarter on Friday and were able to finish off a 21-point comeback.

    Bulls guard/forward Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot, left, and Detroit Pistons forward Thon Maker fight for a ball during Friday's loss to the Pistions. Feeling some desperation to reach the playoffs this season, the Detroit Pistons picked on the Bulls' reserves at the start of the fourth quarter on Friday and were able to finish off a 21-point comeback. Associated Press

The Bulls got a taste of playoff desperation Friday against Detroit.

After falling behind by 21 points at the United Center, the Pistons refused to take a step backward in their playoff push without a fight.

While coming back to post a 112-104 win, the Pistons picked on the Bulls' depleted second unit. Trailing by 11 to start the fourth quarter, coach Dwane Casey left Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond on the floor, while the Bulls had Cristiano Felicio at center and 6-foot-5 Wayne Selden Jr. playing power forward,

Needless to say, that matchup didn't go well. Detroit opened the fourth with a 19-6 run and had taken the lead before the Bulls got their starters back on the floor.

Should the Bulls have played their starters more? The question was asked a few times after the game.

"I think I have it in me (to play more)," Lauri Markkanen said. "I don't know how it would look, if I have (actually) the energy or not. But I feel good personally and I'm going to do whatever (coach Jim Boylen) puts me through."

Realistically, though, the Bulls' starters did play plenty of minutes. The four main guys -- Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr. and Robin Lopez logged at least 34 minutes.

Drummond played Ironman and stayed on the floor for the entire second half. But Griffin was the only other Pistons player who accumulated as many as 30 minutes.

This is just something the Bulls will have to live with. They're depth isn't very good right now and injuries have played a part. Two rookies, Wendell Carter Jr. (thumb) and Chandler Hutchison (toe) are sidelined, while Denzel Valentine (ankle surgery) hasn't played all year. Improving the bench will be the primary goal of the Bulls this summer in free-agency.

Guards Ryan Arcidiacono and Shaq Harrison are candidates to return next season, but the Bulls don't have the size or strength on the bench to come anywhere near matching Griffin and Drummond. Newcomer Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was the fifth player on the floor with the reserves.

"I'm trying to see if they can play," Boylen said. "I'm trying to see what they can do. I'm trying to see if they can hold it together. I thought in that Boston game they played great. They got us the lead and they took control of the game. So I want to trust them. I want to develop them, but they're learning too and they're growing."

Most Bulls fans would probably agree there's no reason to risk injury by extending the starters to longer minutes. It's good to see signs of progress in the rebuilding plan, but all things considered, the Bulls would rather not catch Atlanta and finish with the fifth-worst record heading into the draft lottery.

There are plenty of important lessons the starters can learn during their 35 minutes on the floor, such as getting the ball to the right guy, cutting down on costly turnovers in close games and keeping a consistent effort.

"We can't give up an 11-point lead whoever's on the floor," LaVine said after the game. "It seemed like we got complacent with where we were. As a unit, we just didn't do our job out there in the second half. To be up 21 points, that's unacceptable."

The Bulls will get another chance at the Pistons on Sunday morning in Little Caesars Arena. LaVine was suffering from a sore knee Saturday, but the team said he is probably to play in Detroit.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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