"The Bulls appeared to run a few more sets for Gasol, and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to be urging Gasol to take the shot, though it’s clear Gasol’s nature is to move the ball," notes Smith.
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Bulls lose second straight preseason game

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By Sam Smith | 10.07.2014 | 11:22 p.m. CT | asksam@bulls.com | @SamSmithHoops

Perhaps the Bulls will have more good fortune in the regular season this time.

The Bulls Tuesday lost their second straight preseason game—after going undefeated in last year’s preseason—111-109 in overtime to the Detroit Pistons.

It was played as early preseason games generally are, this time with Joakim Noah missing the game to rest his surgically repaired knee and Derrick Rose playing just 14 minutes, all in the first half.

Though Rose had six points, all on free throws, and was zero-for-four shooting, it was another positive in his return from a second knee surgery as Rose again was quick and decisive, this time in the second of a back-to-back.

Though Rose missed his two jump shot attempts—too small a sample for conclusions—he again made several athletic plays, barely missing a tip rebound over Pistons big men in the first quarter, driving all the way through the defense and his layup a bit too hard later and taking a second brutal hit at the basket late in the first half, bouncing up and shooting his free throws.

“I think that tonight we’re still trying to find a base,” said Rose. “Of course, the minutes thing is something we have to deal with, where guys are playing a certain amount of minutes in the preseason; guys just gelling, just have to gel quick. We haven’t won a game yet. The Pistons are a good team, a big, big team and you can tell they’ve got a bright future.”

The Bulls would be led by Jimmy Butler and Aaron Brooks, both with 18 points, though Brooks’ scoring was mostly late as the Bulls stuck with reserves the fourth quarter and overtime. Tony Snell, entering in the fourth quarter, had 10 points and two free throws to tie the game at the end of regulation. Taj Gibson was the team’s most effective scorer. Mostly working out of the post, Gibson was eight of 10 for 17 points with seven rebounds and three assists.

Though the Bulls were most effective when Butler and Pau Gasol worked together as Gasol, still a bit cautious about shooting, was again the team’s high rebounder with 10 and added two blocks with his solid posture and stoicism at the rim.

Though Gasol isn’t a physical defender, he cleverly uses his size and athletic coordination to fool drivers with blocks. The Bulls appeared to run a few more sets for Gasol, and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to be urging Gasol to take the shot, though it’s clear Gasol’s nature is to move the ball.

“He worked himself into the game,” said Thibodeau of Gasol. “He kept grinding and kept the playmaking going.”

Any hesitancy shouldn’t be a big flaw this season as the Bulls should be improved in three point shooting.

They were nine of 21 overall on threes Monday with Mike Dunleavy the best, hitting three of three. Dunleavy worked well off Gasol also and a pair of his threes came off Gasol passes. Gasol is tall and it seems he pretty much can get an open 15-footer just about anytime he wants. Again, Gasol passed on a few, moving the ball with some nice drop passes to cutters, though he did look for his shot a bit more. The Bulls clearly have work to do to find his comfort zone in the post as Gibson got most of the work in the post as opposed to Gasol. Gasol also does a good job staying in front of big men and was effective thwarting Pistons center Andre Drummond.

It was a tough shooting game for rookie Doug McDermott, who was three of 12 as teams already are closing fast on his shot. But McDermott in a team-high 34 minutes showed again he’s more than a shooter with a strong driving move off the right wing when the defense attempted to close and left handed driving score for a potential three-point play in overtime. McDermott also had eight rebounds.

After an 18-point debut Monday, the Hall of Fame had to hold off on requesting Nikola Mirotic gear as the European rookie fouled out in 14 minutes with five turnovers and one missed shot. He also had the biggest minus on the team in the plus-minus rating, though he did knock Drummond down with a strong screen.

None of that American weak stuff for him.

The Bulls next play Saturday in Milwaukee.

“I was concerned about our rebounding based on what happened last night.” Thibodeau said of the Wizards’ 47-40 edge as it was 48-40 Bulls Tuesday. “I thought that was a big thing for us. I thought Taj was terrific from the start. That was established in the paint, so that part was good. Same thing, we have to play tougher, we’ve got to understand the fourth quarters are different, we’ve got to get in the gym and we have to practice.”

And now three days with no games.

It’s been a mostly cautious and measured preseason thus far with Rose playing two sequences in the first half of each game and sitting the second halves. The Bulls are being conservative with Noah and he’ll likely sit again later in the preseason with one more back to back set, though that second one is in Ohio against the Cavaliers.

The Pistons were led by Greg Monroe with 24 points, though he came off the bench, a signal the free agent is not in the team’s plans. New coach and czar Stan Van Gundy appears to be importing his Orlando shooting system as the Pistons shot 32 three pointers, though they often were flummoxed by creative shooting from Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith. Still, they’ll be a more competitive and possibly a playoff team.

Gibson started for Noah and was making his shot this time while Butler again was all over the court, driving, tipping, rebounding and defending. Butler still was hesitant shooting from outside, though he was seven of nine shooting overall. The Bulls were a more respectable 47 percent shooting Tuesday after 34 percent Monday.

The Bulls trailed 27-25 after one quarter and were down nine seconds after Rose, Gasol and Butler returned midway through the second quarter. McDermott and Dunleavy made threes and Butler showed a nice post move and short jumper, though most of his scores were inside. The Bulls trailed 51-49 at halftime when Jennings closed the half with a 60 foot shot and then the Bulls pretty much rode the same group with Gasol, McDermott, Butler, Gibson and Kirk Hinrich through the third quarter as Gasol made several nice plays with the ball and positioning.

The Bulls trailed 77-73 going into the fourth quarter when Thibodeau went with Mirotic, Snell, Solomon Jones, McDermott and Brooks.

Mirotic seemed hesitant to shoot after a strong outing Monday and soon drew a sixth foul, opening playing time for rookie Cameron Bairstow.

“Our young guys are learning,” said Thibodeau. “They’re capable of being better. Nikola is almost unselfish to a fault. He had some wide open shots he passed up. I told him we want him to shoot those.”

Brooks carried the Bulls through the fourth quarter in a mini-duel with former Bull D.J. Augustin, scoring 10 straight Bulls points before Snell’s free throws sent the game into overtime.

It was significant Snell offered and received a vigorous chest bump from Noah after the free throws as Noah last season lambasted the shy Snell for his meager chest and fist bumps. It seems Snell worked on them in summer as well.

Snell’s three gave the Bulls a lead to start overtime, but the Bulls couldn’t get much to fall after that and the Pistons hung on for the victory.